Rhode Island Senator blames Oklahoma tornado on global warming boogeyman


While Tea Party Patriots typically ignores the global warming/climate change debates because of the black holes they are, one Senator recently tied federal emergency financial aid for natural disasters – focusing on the recent tornado in Oklahoma – to claim Republicans who oppose climate change legislation are harming the nation’s financial and physical security. From The Daily Caller:

While many Americans were tuned into news coverage of the massive damage from tornadoes ravaging the state of Oklahoma, Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse took to the Senate floor to rail against his Republican colleagues for denying the theory of anthropogenic global warming.

Whitehouse spent 15 minutes chastising GOP senators and justified his remarks by alluding to states that seek federal assistance in the wake of natural disasters.

“So, you may have a question for me,” Whitehouse said. “Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together. We are stuck in this together. When cyclones tear up Oklahoma and hurricanes swamp Alabama and wildfires scorch Texas, you come to us, the rest of the country, for billions of dollars to recover. And the damage that your polluters and deniers are doing doesn’t just hit Oklahoma and Alabama and Texas. It hits Rhode Island with floods and storms. It hits Oregon with acidified seas, it hits Montana with dying forests. So, like it or not, we’re in this together.”

Since Senator Whitehouse is using the Oklahoma tornado as the launching point for his statement, let’s look at the facts surrounding tornadoes. According to NOAA, the past year (May 2012 to April 2013) had the lowest number of “EF1 and stronger tornadoes” (those with wind speeds reaching at least 86 MPH) dating back to 1954. This time period also has the second-lowest number of tornado deaths back to 1875, a total of 7.

Meanwhile, data released in September 2012 shows that for the previous 16 years, the average temperature of the globe has remained constant:

The new data, compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea, was issued quietly on the internet, without any media fanfare….

This stands in sharp contrast to the release of the previous figures six months ago, which went only to the end of 2010 – a very warm year.

Ending the data then means it is possible to show a slight warming trend since 1997, but 2011 and the first eight months of 2012 were much cooler, and thus this trend is erased.

Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions.

Others disagreed. Professor Judith Curry, who is the head of the climate science department at America’s prestigious Georgia Tech university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was clear that the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’.

Even Prof Jones admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun. However, he said he was still convinced that the current decade would end up significantly warmer than the previous two.

So, in the medium-term, no global warming, and in the short run, we’ve had fewer tornadoes than in the past. What about further back? Data compiled by Just Facts shows that over the previous 40 years, global hurricane frequency and intensity have been about level, as have U.S. tornado fatalities.

Okay. So we’ve established the Senator’s entire premise is false. Well, surely he is all for fiscal responsibility – after all, he made an argument for action against global warming on the basis of spending less money.

Never mind:

“I think there is a shift at the state level,” he said, noting participation of some GOP governors in climate initiatives and that governors also “see the value of green energy in their states.”

“I think there is a latent movement within the Republican power structure,” Whitehouse said.

In other words, the Senator is okay with spreading the wealth around for green energy. But not when natural disasters unrelated to global warming hit.

Senator Whitehouse is attempting to paint himself as a scientifically adept, fiscally conservative Member of Congress. However, his comments smack of political opportunism, in trying to use a tragedy to further his political agenda.

Unsurprisingly, the Senator backtracked on the comments within a couple of days, claiming he didn’t know about the devastating damage being done to Oklahoma at the time. When you add these recent comments to his remarks on “settled” global warming theories, it’s clear his knack for making uninformed accusations is a habit.