December 21, 2021

Contact: Jason Phelps, jason@climatepower.us

Washington, D.C. – Today, Sen. Tina Smith, Dr. Michael Mann, Minnesota House Speaker Hortman, and a pair of first responders joined Climate Power to brief the press on the devastating impact of this year’s climate driven catastrophes. Representing communities from across the country, they spoke with one voice about the pain they feel in the wake of recent disasters and the demand for the Senate to fully tackle the climate crisis as soon as possible.

Last week, over 100 million Americans were placed under weather alerts including tornadoes, wildfires, and wind gusts up to 100 mph. Dozens of tornadoes swept across the Midwest—including the longest path of any tornado in American history. They left 93 dead, over 1,000 homes destroyed, hundreds of thousands without power, and dozens of people unaccounted for. Meanwhile, wildfires continue to devastate the West and drought conditions make it more and more impossible for emergency responders to deal with the threat. Climate Power issued a companion end-of-year report highlighting the devastating impacts of extreme weather on frontline communities across the country.

Here’s what was said on the call, in case you missed it:

U.S. Senator Tina Smith: “These violent weather events are occurring with more frequency and more intensity. This is not an abstract threat that we are planning for in the future. It is something that is happening right now. And I can tell you that Minnesotans understand the link between these severe weather events and the carbon that we are pumping into the air. And they understand we need to build resilience and we need to take the lead in dramatically lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Now, for all of these reasons we need bold action to reduce carbon emissions and to slow the warming of our planet. 

“But here is the opportunity. The clean energy transition is going to happen. The question is whether the United States leads that transition, or whether we follow. And with Build Back Better, we are on track to lead. There is no doubt that we got some bad news this weekend, but I want everyone to know that I am not walking away from this, that I am gonna continue to push forward with the strongest possible legislation we can get.” 

Dr. Michael Mann: “The science here is very clear. We’re seeing an increase in the intensity of tornadoes–like that likely EF five tornado that barreled through Kentucky costing probably more than 100 lives–and we saw this massive outbreak of nearly 60 storms. The science indicates that we do expect to see larger outbreaks and over an expanding season, increasingly during the winter months, and so the event that we saw play out in Kentucky and six other states, that line of extreme winds and thunderstorms and tornadoes that were seen in Minnesota, Wisconsin. This is the impact of human cost warming of the planet. Make no mistake about it. And the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of taking action. And so look, the United States needs to lead. When we leave the rest of the world follows along.

“But the United States has to be able to make good on its commitments if we are going to bring other actors to the table. And Joe Biden is committed to lowering carbon emissions by 50% within the next decade. That’s what we need to do to avert catastrophic warming of more than 3 degrees farenheit of the planet. But for him to do that, that pledge, those obligations, have to be codified in legislation, and so we need Build Back Better that will indeed codify the commitments that we have made to the rest of the world so that they will join us in addressing the greatest crisis that we face today.”

Speaker Hortman: “Minnesotans are pretty tough. We know what the drill is when it comes to our weather, but even as tough as we are, and as ready to handle anything, tornadoes in December are a real wake up call. The climate is changing, and we need to take action right now.

Minnesota is one of the fastest-warming states in the country. Without action, these climate-driven storms and tornadoes will become more and more prevalent, and more and more deadly. We must take action to protect our health, our environment, our farms, and our infrastructure.”

Elizabeth Velasco, emergency communications professional and Spanish language translator: “In August, we saw that we had the worst air quality in the world here in Colorado. In communications, what we tell people when the air quality is bad is to stay inside, to avoid exerting yourselves. But my Latino community has to work outside. We are working in construction, we are landscapers, How do you protect our outdoor workers? We see that when there’s an emergency, communities of color are disproportionately affected.”

Sevan Gerard, 18-year veteran government firefighter: “That is what we need to expect as the magnitude of these events continues . It’s going to be impossible—it already is—for those of us in public safety to completely wrap our arms around the needs of the community when one of these disasters strike. And what is really upsetting is that the scale of these things could be prevented through good political decision making, through changing how we conduct business, what our industry looks like—we can have a significant impact.”