This year is seeing one of the worst tornado seasons in decades, and speculation is rampant about whether climate change is involved. When the dust settles, it’s obvious that the rolling collapse of the case for global warming has forced alarmists to argue that even without scientific evidence, the risk is too great to reach any other conclusion.
It’s a human instinct to seek ultimate causes for disastrous events. Explanations like natural variation - that some seasons are better than others, some are worse - are not sufficiently compelling for many people. Notions like simple bad luck will not satisfy those for whom every disaster must point to government policies and programs to prevent it from ever happening again. Simply standing in awe of the destructive powers of nature won’t make it into the recommendations of a blue-ribbon interagency task-force report.
Tornadoes fit well with the de rigueur notion of “global climate disruption” being pushed by White House science adviser John P. Holdren. After all, nothing says disruption quite like a tornado. Conclusively linking increases in the frequency and destructive power of tornadoes to human activity would push the climate-alarmist agenda much more dramatically than other alleged effects of carbon-dioxide emissions. Amateur video of houses being ripped apart by killer storms is more riveting than footage of supposedly melting glaciers.
Such propaganda ploys have been tried before. In the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, greens promised that this was only the beginning, that future hurricanes would be bigger, more destructive and more frequent. But then came three years of relatively mild hurricane seasons. The inconvenient truth for the doomsayers was that long-term data showed relative stability in hurricane size and frequency. The scale of the 2005 disaster had much more to do with the bad luck of the hurricane track heading straight for New Orleans. If human activity played a role, it was mostly in the incompetence of local officials in dealing with the crisis.
The case linking tornadoes to global warming is even sketchier, and the science is far from “settled.” A 2007 NASA study predicted that the number of tornadoes would increase with global warming. A 2009 study by University of Georgia found the opposite. The number of recorded tornadoes has risen in the last 20 years, but the rise coincides with greater use of Doppler radar and other advanced means of detecting tornadic activity, creating an acute issue of data artifice. A definitive answer to the question may not be possible. Given this lack of proof, the alarmists are forced to fall back on the question “what if?”
There is no evidence that America is facing an increased risk from tornadoes based on human activity or carbon-dioxide emissions, but what if it is? Can we accept that risk? “What if global warming *does* cause more and more powerful tornadoes in the south?” asks The Atlantic. “What then?” This type of non-argument is typical of the reasoning the alarmist camp has been forced to employ as the factual basis for their pet theory crumbles. The questions the global-warming crowd should be asking themselves are: What if everything they have so deeply believed and trusted over the years turns out to be completely wrong? What if the belief system that has given their lives meaning for decades can no longer sustain its inner contradictions? What if their god dies? What then?