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Experts Refute Claims Linking Deadly Tornadoes to Climate Change

By Nathan Worcester

Experts have pushed back against claims that this weekend’s tragic tornadoes in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee can be clearly linked to manmade climate change.

In an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times, professor and climate economist Richard S.J. Tol of the University of Sussex explained why it is so difficult to connect weather events on the scale of a tornado to shifts in the Earth’s climate.

“Tornadoes are small, rarely more than 3 kilometers in diameter. The most advanced climate models, however, cannot see things that are smaller than 9 by 9 km. Climate models can therefore tell us very little about tornadoes,” he told The Epoch Times via email.

“Data are not great, but suggest that there is no upward or downward trend in tornado frequency or severity,” he added.

Epoch Times Photo
Professor and climate economist Richard S.J. Tol of the University of Sussex. (

Over the weekend, President Biden speculated that climate change had “some impact” on the massive storms, which have claimed at least 74 lives so far.

“All I know is that the intensity of the weather across the board has some impacts as a consequence of the warming of the planet and climate change,” Biden said, according to reporting from Fox News. “The specific impact on these specific storms, I can’t say at this point.”

“The fact is that we all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming. Everything. And obviously it has some impact here, but I can’t give you a quantitative read on that,” he later added.

“The rush to attribute the… tornadoes to climate change illustrates perfectly the political distortion of the topic,” climate economist and University of Guelph professor Ross McKitrick told The Epoch Times via email in another exclusive interview.

Bogdan Gaicki surveys tornado damage after extreme weather hit the region in Mayfield, Ky., on Dec. 12, 2021. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“The IPCC AR6 (Sct 11.7.3) makes no attribution claims between greenhouse gases and tornadoes, and the long term data show no increasing trend in numbers or severity (indeed there is a slight decrease in numbers),” he added, referring to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the physical science basis for climate change. “Yet the public has been so primed by politicians and activists to blame extreme weather on greenhouse gases they hardly blink when someone like President Biden just makes up the connection.”

A Dec. 13 article from The Washington Post claimed that tornadoes have become more frequent in recent decades, citing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that they said illustrated tornadoes in the United States are becoming more frequent.

Homes are badly destroyed after a tornado ripped through area the previous evening in Mayfield, Ky., on Dec. 11, 2021. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Responding to that article on Twitter, University of Colorado environmental science professor Roger Pielke Jr. described a figure from the article as “incredibly misleading,” pointed out that the rollout of Doppler radar systems increased reporting of very weak tornadoes in more recent years.

Like McKitrick, he noted that the IPCC has not found that tornadoes are clearly linked to climate change.

McKitrick, who recently questioned a key statistical approach used to link greenhouse gases to climate change, wonders why some researchers only ever look at potential downsides of any changes to the Earth’s climate.

“Now the alarmists are shifting to a claim that while the events are natural, greenhouse gases [make] them worse than they otherwise would be,” he told The Epoch Times. “Aside from the questionable statistical analysis behind such arguments, the big problem is that it’s ambulance chasing. The fact that they only ever associate greenhouse gases with bad weather outcomes is meaningless since they only ever look at bad weather events. They never study whether a stretch of mild weather could be attributed to greenhouse gases.”