By Zack Colman - 06/11/13 05:42 PM EDT
Former Vice President Al Gore lamented on Tuesday that scientists “won’t let us yet” link tornadoes to climate change.
Gore alluded to last month’s devastating twister in Moore, Okla., saying that shoddy historical statistics are preventing a connection between “these record-breaking tornadoes and the climate crisis.”
The former vice president made the comments at Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) annual Rhode Island energy and environment conference at the Capitol.
Scientists have generally avoided associating individual extreme weather events to climate change, though they say its effects intensify such incidents.
Failing to acknowledge that connection will imperil future relief efforts as disasters grow more frequent and expensive, Gore said.
“There are beginning to be big arguments in this building about whether we can afford to clean up these disasters,” noting the congressional battles over providing relief aid following Hurricane Sandy and the Moore tornado.
Insurance agencies and climate activists contend the government will be increasingly on the hook for disaster cleanup as a result of climate change. They say storms are growing fiercer, subjecting more areas to disaster-related damage that private insurers are hesitant to cover.
Gore advocated putting a price on carbon to limit emissions as a way to subdue those incidents.
The idea is a favorite of climate activists who want to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and is also favored by some conservatives who want more revenues for the Treasury.
But the concept of a carbon tax has gained little traction in Congress. The idea is a non-starter among Republicans and some Democrats, and the White House has said it won’t pursue one.
Even without a carbon tax, Gore said the world is “on the cusp of a fantastic revolution” in renewable energy.
He said the proliferation of solar and wind energy technology is occurring across the globe at a faster pace than projected. But he said “legacy” interests in the fossil fuel industry have a stake in preventing that.
Gore compared the fossil fuel industry’s tactics about denying the link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming to those of cigarette firms decades ago.
“It’s the same thing all over again,” he said. “But the tide is turning.”