(Do Oklahomans think state employees, including teachers, are overpaid and get too many benefits? You may be surprised what a new survey shows. Read DocHoc’s latest post on SoonerPoll.)
It’s not often I agree with U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe or Gov. Mary Fallin, but both are supporting tax incentives for storm shelters, and that’s a good thing for Oklahoma.
Inhofe’s push to give $2,500 in tax breaks to people who install storm shelters, which can cost up to $10,000, seems especially poignant given his own stormy rhetorical relationship to weather. Inhofe, pictured right, has said he believes global warming is a political “hoax,” or, in essence, a huge conspiracy among leading world scientists.
So let’s take a close look at Inhofe’s statement about the shelter legislation:
This legislation is essential to protecting Americans across the nation from extreme weather conditions like tornadoes. Currently, our nation offers very few resources to assist homeowners with proactively protecting their families from severe weather. This year alone, tornadoes have devastated 14 states and killed 550 people. Even more alarming is the fact that over 734 deadly tornadoes have claimed the lives of over 2,000 people since 1980. This preventative measure is necessary to states that, like Oklahoma, are most vulnerable to severe weather.
Note the phrase “extreme weather conditions” and the specific numerical notation of the devastation. It doesn’t read much different than this from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
April 2011 is ranked as the most active tornado month on record with 753 tornadoes [. . . ]There were an estimated 364 fatalities.
The previous record was set in April 1974 with 267 tornadoes.
The average number of tornadoes for the month of April during the past decade is 161.
The previous record number of tornadoes during any month was 542 tornadoes set in May 2003.
The main difference, of course, is the NOAA, unlike Inhofe, mentions that April was the “most active tornado month on record,” which is a significant fact and deserves scrutiny. Here are two questions: Is climate change at least partially responsible for the record-setting tornadoes? Can we expect more record-setting severe weather events in the immediate future and beyond?
It’s likely Inhofe would simply dismiss the climate-change question given his previous positions on global warming, but if he’s really concerned about “protecting Americans . . . from extreme weather conditions like tornadoes” he should encourage it to be discussed openly and without political attack.
Joe Romm, who edits the Climate Progress blog, posted a piece in May that talked about a possible relationship between global warming and tornadoes. He quoted Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who said, “It is irresponsible not to mention climate change in stories that presume to say something about why all these storms and tornadoes are happening.”
According to Romm, Trenberth added, “The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming).” Trenberth then talked about specifically about weather patterns that can produce tornadoes.
Obviously, Inhofe is not arguing about the cause of tornadoes, and there is no conclusive link between them and global warming, but studying the issue could have an even larger impact on the long-term safety of people than giving tax breaks for storm shelters.
Meanwhile, Fallin, according to NewsOK.com, is scheduled to announce a similar $2,000 tax rebate for Oklahomans who install storm shelters.
I have long been a proponent of better severe weather planning and tax breaks for storm shelters. In May, 2010, I wrote in the Oklahoma Gazette about a need for a comprehensive weather safety plan:
This plan might include requiring mobile home parks and apartments to have at least evacuation plans if not storm shelters or safe rooms, granting more tax incentives and rebates for new shelters and requiring shelters in all new homes. This plan should also promote better information campaigns about the location of public shelters.
Inhofe and Fallin at least agree with me on “tax incentives and rebates for new shelters,” but they also need to allow a discussion about climate change’s effect on severe weather here in Oklahoma. Tornadoes, droughts and wildfires don’t just occur outside of an area’s climate. Is global warming part of the reason for all our recent severe weather? It deserves discussion.