Man-Made Disasters

Our hearts go out to the people of Moore, Oklahoma. You cannot watch footage of the devastating effects of this tornado on the communities, the families and the children of this town without wiping away tears.

Oklahoma is God country. But, I've got news for you. God had nothing to do with this disaster. We often turn to God in times of hardship and distress to simply ask why to questions that have no answers. But, this is not one of those times. Here there really is an answer if we are brave enough to ask the right questions.

A July 2011 article from The Atlantic titled, "An Era of Tornadoes: How Global Warming Causes Wild Winds," summarized it quite nicely.

Recent studies published in Nature and Science conclude that extreme weather events (heavy rainfall events and heatwave intensity) are linked to climate change. And the heat buildup in the deep ocean helps explain why.

Since the 1950s, the world's oceans have accumulated close to 95 percent of all the additional heat related to global warming. Because warm ocean surfaces evaporate faster than cool ones and the warmed atmosphere holds more water vapor, the warming and water vapor fuel storms. (MIT climate modeler Kerry Emanuel, for example, has demonstrated that Hurricane Katrina would not have been as strong as it was in 2005 if it had occurred in 1980, when the atmosphere and sea surfaces were cooler.)

So global warming is thus causing climate change, including altered weather patterns, and the engine of change is the heat building up deep inside the world's oceans. Water is warming, ice is melting, and water vapor is rising. How does this help explain tornadoes?

For tornadoes, we have clear ideas on how they form and have some idea about how their strength may be linked to global warming.

It's all about contrasts and gradients. Warmer temperatures over land surfaces create low-pressure systems (since hot air rises, creating "lows"), while cold fronts from the north come with high pressures. Weather "flows downhill," as it were--from highs to lows. When temperature and pressure gradients between highs and lows increase (as they do naturally in spring), the clash can twist to form tornadoes. The greater the contrasts, the greater the force of the twisters.

Nobody is saying that any one weather event like a single tornado has definitely been caused by climate change, but weather patterns are shifting making extreme weather all the more commonplace.

Of course, Oklahoma is also home to its senior senator, Jim Inhofe, who is one of the biggest climate deniers in the country. Senator Inhofe often asserts his claim that climate change is a hoax and impossible because "God's still up there." He has compared the EPA to the Gestapo under Hitler. So, did God target Oklahoma because of its misdirected beliefs about climate change. No. That is what is most sad about climate change. It is indiscriminate. It impacts everybody. But, if God has sent us a wake-up call, I hope someone gets out of bed and answers the phone and they don't hit the snooze button on the alarm clock for another ten years.

Is it a coincidence that the mass murders of Sandy Hook occurred in a town that was famous for its shooting ranges and pride of gun ownership? Why did conservative Staten Island get hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy? Why do our most conservative rural towns suffer the most casualties from our foreign wars? Why is the republican South bearing the greatest job loss due to outsourcing to India and China? And why did the fairly conservative lunchbox working class suffer the greatest in the most recent recession?

Again, God had nothing to do with it. These tragedies were all man-made. And where were they manufactured? In the lobbyist infected halls of Congress and campaign money driven policies of our presidency and our Supreme Court. I, along with others, have been warning about the destructive impact of lobbying for decades. Now we are beginning to see its true costs. It isn't just that our democracy is weakened. It's not just that a valuable, yet ephemeral, institution is threatened. Without an ability for the people to manage their own affairs, the country is unable to address threats it faces such as unneeded wars, climate change, low wage international trade, greedy bankers and corrupt politicians.

So let us all pray for our fellow Americans suffering in Oklahoma. And let us pray that we are able to differentiate between unavoidable disastrous acts of God and those invented much closer to home that we should have some control over. And let us pray for the children.

John R. Talbott is a best selling author and economic consultant to families whose books predicted the housing crash and the economic crisis. You can read more about his books, the accuracy of his predictions and his financial consulting activities at