To be clear, we don’t know that climate change was responsible for the tornadoes; research on the role that climate change is playing in the formation and intensity of tornadoes is not as robust as for other types of extreme weather like droughts, floods and even hurricanes. But extreme weather is here to stay.
It goes beyond the odd fact of snow in Hawaii this month, but little in Denver. Floods and wildfires are getting worse. The devastation in Kentucky suggests tornadoes could be in the mix.
The solution for the world is cutting down on carbon emissions. The solution for Biden, although he has little control over it, includes lower gas prices. It is an irony of crosscurrents when the President’s political fortunes rest on enabling something shown to affect the climate.
The limits of government
The coronavirus pandemic — the headline that has consumed Americans for much of the past nearly two years — shows just how difficult it is for government to compel behaviors that could alleviate the threat. Among fierce disagreement over vaccine mandates, Americans are going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus, in part because more people won’t get vaccinated on their own. Similarly, Americans may have to learn to live with a more unpredictable and dangerous climate because the wonky federal system is making it extremely difficult to deal with it in a big way.
Biden wants the Environmental Protection Agency to weigh in on the specifics of the climate and tornadoes.
“All that I know is that the intensity of the weather across the board has some impact as a consequence of the warming of the planet and the climate change,” Biden said at the White House Saturday. “The specific impact on these specific storms, I can’t say at this point. I’m going to be asking the EPA and others to take a look at that.”
As CNN’s climate team notes, the short and small scale of tornadoes, along with an extremely spotty and unreliable historical record for them, makes relationships to long-term, human-caused climate change very difficult to pinpoint.
Criswell said tornadoes do occur in December. What’s different in Kentucky is how the tornadoes behaved.
“At this magnitude I don’t think we’ve ever seen one this late in the year,” she said. “But it’s also historic — even the severity and the amount of time these tornadoes spent on the ground is unprecedented.”
A plan that does not yet have the votes
Many elements of Biden’s climate agenda are in the Build Back Better bill, which faces uncertainty on Capitol Hill.
It would spend billions more to subsidize Americans buying electric cars and bikes.
The climate portions, pared back to satisfy Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are wrapped in with unrelated social safety net elements he doesn’t yet support.
The threat to democracy
The perceived squeeze on Americans’ pocketbooks already overshadows the climate, but there’s another distraction in the blinking-red threat to American democracy posed by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
The latest revelation: Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, said in an email that the National Guard would be on hand to “protect pro Trump people” in the leadup to the Capitol insurrection, according to a new contempt report released Sunday night by the House select committee investigating January 6.
The resolution comes after the panel informed Meadows last week that it had “no choice” but to advance criminal contempt proceedings against him given that he had decided to no longer cooperate.
After earlier agreeing to cooperate with the committee, Meadows has clammed up, and sued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and committee members, asking a federal court to block enforcement of the subpoena the committee issued him as well as the subpoena it issued to Verizon for his phone records.
Getting around the Senate
Democrats want to cram their massive climate change and safety net bill into law using budget rules.
To control budget estimates, they push proposals on a temporary basis and then assume Americans won’t want to give up the new perk.
Wherever the evolving form of American government throws up roadblocks, politicians will ultimately find ways around, but whether it’s fast enough to address climate change is a question whose time has come.