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Hot winter tornadoes and coal-powered politicians

The effects we are seeing of climate pollution are the crisis of our generation.

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Apologies in advance—the following is a bit bleak. So feel free to check out this opossum wearing rabbit ears and skip to tomorrow.

The death and destruction of this weekend’s tornadic storms was fueled by record-hot, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico crashing into a cold air mass from the north on Friday. Abilene, Texas reached 84°. Memphis and Oklahoma City hit 79°. This is about 20 degrees above normal.

The oceans are this hot because humans have dug up and burned hundreds of billions of tons of fossil fuels.

ELEVEN HOURS OF HELL: A storm front formed in central Texas midday Friday with record heat and high winds, and began spawning hailstorms as it crossed into Arkansas. At 3:28 PM central time, a tornadic supercell took shape southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas. Northeast of the city, a tornado formed, then traveled hundreds of miles, passing through Missouri and Tennessee, before striking Mayfield, Kentucky (8 dead, 8 missing) at 9:29 PM, and then wiping out Dawson Springs (13 dead, 100 missing) 70 miles to the northeast at 10:21 PM. At 2:31 AM, another tornado in the supercell destroyed over 500 homes in Bowling Green (12 dead). At 2:38 AM, the supercell crossed into its fifth state, Ohio, where it finally died, 600 miles later. The main tornado’s furrow was visible from space the next day.

The Mayfield candle factory erased by the tornado paid most of its workers $8 an hour. Seven of the workers in the factory that night, however, were convicts, on loan from the Graves County jail. All of the inmates survived and one escaped (and is now being hunted down). Their guard was among those killed when the factory was destroyed. OSHA found several serious safety violations at the factory on a 2019 inspection. None of the $16,350 in fines have been paid.

The factory is owned by Mary V. Propes, a reliable donor to climate-denier Republicans. She has contributed over $40,000 over the years to politicians like Sen. Tim Scott (R-Ky.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and contributed over $4,000 last year to Donald Trump’s re-election.

A line of tornadoes ran parallel to the south through Tennessee, killing four, and causing severe damage to Dickson, Kingston Springs, and other towns.

Another parallel line of storms formed to the north of the strongest supercell, spawning tornadoes on a track that went from Missouri, through Indiana and Illinois, to Michigan and Ohio. This supercell included the tornado that obliterated the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois (6 dead, unknown number missing), across the Mississippi from Saint Louis.

Jeff Bezos’s net worth is $198 billion.

PRAYERS AND STOCKINGS FULL OF COAL: The fossil-fueled Kentucky delegation is offering thoughts and prayers.

“Weather The Storm With Confidence.” Mayfield, Ky. Credit: Mark Humphrey

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

  • “I am praying for the lives lost and communities impacted by the tornado devastation throughout the Commonwealth.”

  • “The Green New Deal, my Democratic colleagues’ rallying cry: Killing off entire domestic industries. Winding down millions of jobs. Basically outlawing the only sources of energy that working-class and middle-class families can actually afford.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.):

  • “Our hearts are broken for all those suffering from last night’s horrific storms.”

  • “The Green New Deal represents an industry-killing, all-out assault on our way of life in Kentucky: an escalation of the War on Coal, an attack on our automobile manufacturers and job-creators, and even more bureaucracy for our farmers to navigate.”

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.):

  • “Please be in prayer for all of the families who lost loved ones in the terrible tornadoes that swept through Western Kentucky last night.”

  • “I do not believe in global warming. I’m the one person whose business and livelihood depends on Mother Nature, so I understand weather patterns. We’ve had a very severe winter this year with 12-inch snows, so there is no global warming.”

  • “Rolling out a silver tray of radical environmental and social reforms distracts from the laundry list of pressing issues at hand that we have yet to address.”

State Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R-Ky.):

  • “Makenze and I are praying for every Kentuckian affected.”

  • “Instead of following the law, the Biden Administration is pursuing an extreme climate agenda that will harm Kentuckians & all Americans.”

Kentucky’s Democratic governor Andy Bashear isn’t wildly better on climate policy, to be honest.

I’m very impressed by what the mutual aid organization Rise and Shine Bowling Green is doing. Locals have recommended to me that people contribute to the governor’s Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

Oops: CNN’s climate-change-tornado explainer fails to mention what’s causing the “rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.”

Double Oops: “The Biden administration admitted that a court decision did not compel it to lease vast tracts of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling, shortly before claiming it was legally obliged to do so when announcing the sell-off, the Guardian can reveal.”

Here’s a good twister:

And Biden’s FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell was clear in her response to the tornadoes:

"The effects we are seeing of climate change are the crisis of our generation. We're taking a lot of efforts at FEMA to work with communities to help reduce the impacts that we're seeing from these severe weather events and help to develop systemwide projects that can help protect communities."

P.S. Tonight at 7 PM, New York Communities for Change and 350 NYC are hosting an online forum on how ABC News is covering the climate emergency, with a powerful line-up of panelists: communications expert David Fenton, climate scientist Ben Franta, media scientist Hanna Morris, and climate journalist Amy Westervelt. I’m looking forward to tuning in.

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