Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

ONE DAY left in this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

tornado_kentucky

Homes destroyed during last week's tornado continue to litter the landscape on December 16, 2021 in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Multiple tornadoes touched down in several Midwest states last Friday, causing widespread destruction and leaving scores of people dead and injured. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Climate Catastrophes Are Everywhere, From Tornadoes in Kentucky to Floods in Uganda

The wreckage and loss of life from this storm is yet another symptom of how our fossil fuel addiction heats the planet and drives disasters.

Amy GoodmanDenis Moynihan

 by Democracy Now!

Devastating tornadoes hit Kentucky and neighboring states as darkness descended on Friday. The supercell thunderstorm tore a 200-mile path, leaving death and destruction in its wake. The National Weather Service had been issuing warnings and severe weather alerts for over 36 hours. At the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, workers on the evening shift were scared. NBC News reported that managers told them they'd be fired if they left to seek shelter elsewhere (a charge the factory owner disputes). Eight workers there were killed and many injured when a massive EF4 tornado flattened the factory. An Amazon warehouse in Illinois was flattened, killing six workers. The death toll across six states is now at least 90. The wreckage and loss of life from this storm is yet another symptom of how our fossil fuel addiction heats the planet and drives disasters.

"This isn't a natural disaster. This is a disaster exacerbated by human-caused climate change…There were winds measured at more than 300 miles per hour."

"The severity and the amount of time these tornadoes spent on the ground is unprecedented," Deanne Criswell, the FEMA administrator, said on CNN. "This is going to be our new normal. The effects that we're seeing from climate change are the crisis of our generation."

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, reinforced that last point, speaking on the Democracy Now! news hour:

"This isn't a natural disaster. This is a disaster exacerbated by human-caused climate change…There were winds measured at more than 300 miles per hour. Debris was found 30,000 feet up in the atmosphere, and it traveled nearly 200 miles, something we've never seen before."

As President Biden visited Mayfield on Wednesday, a massive wind storm swept out of the Rocky Mountains across the Plains states, blinding travelers in clouds of dust and overturning tractor trailers as they drove. Record high temperatures fanned the storm, leaving half a million without power and causing the first December tornadoes in Minnesota's recorded history.

Eight thousand miles away, in Kampala, Uganda, Vanessa Nakate is at the forefront of the global movement for climate justice. She founded Youth for Future Africa after joining in the Fridays for Future climate strike movement launched by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. A photo of Vanessa with Greta and other youth climate strikers at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was published with the four white teens pictured, but Vanessa cropped out. The Associated Press claims a house behind Vanessa made that side of the photo cluttered, but Vanessa saw it as another example of the racism deeply interconnected with the climate crisis. The title of her new book, "A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis," was inspired by the incident.

"This was the first time in my life that I understood the definition of the word 'racism,'" she explained on a social media post, adding on Democracy Now! "Africa is the least emitter of carbon, but we are the most affected by the climate crisis. But you erasing our voices won't change anything…we are not missing. We are just unheard."

Vanessa's trajectory as an activist has been meteoric, from staging a small protest in Kampala in January, 2019 with five siblings and cousins to speaking before a hundred thousand activists at the COP26 protest rally in Glasgow in November. Her book is both a cri de cœur for climate action and a practical guide on how the climate justice movement can and must center the voices of those most impacted by the climate emergency. Throughout her book, on social media and in public speeches, Vanessa Nakate amplifies the names and voices of other young African climate activists, revealing a vibrant but largely unheard sector of the movement.

"We cannot have climate justice if the voices from the most affected communities are continuously being cropped out," she continued, on Democracy Now! "That doesn't just erase my story or my experience; it…literally erases the existence of the challenges that I'm seeing in my country and the problems people are facing because of the climate crisis."

A key failure of the United Nations climate change negotiations that Vanessa writes about has been the failure of wealthy nations to deliver on their promised $100 billion per year to help developing nations develop renewably. Professor Michael Mann agrees.

"We don't want them to go through the fossil fuel stage of economic development. We can't afford for that to happen," Mann said. "So we have to provide them with the financing and the resources to develop clean energy technology. That means that the United States, the EU and other industrial countries need to ante up."

The global climate emergency is spawning catastrophes everywhere, from tornadoes in Kentucky to floods in Uganda. Stemming irreversible climate change is still possible, but only with urgent, coordinated and inclusive action by us all.


The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide.

Denis Moynihan

Denis Moynihan

Denis Moynihan has worked with Democracy Now! since 2000. He is a bestselling author and a syndicated columnist with King Features. He lives in Colorado, where he founded community radio station KFFR 88.3 FM in the town of Winter Park.

Just ONE DAY left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·


Assange Makes Final Appeal Against US Extradition

"If Julian Assange is not free, neither are we," said a protester at a Friday demonstration against the WikiLeaks founder's impending transfer. "None of us is free."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Payoff for 40 Years of Dark Money': Supreme Court Delivers for Corporate America

"It was the conservative court's larger agenda to gut the regulatory state and decimate executive powers to protect Americans' health and safety," warned one expert.

Jake Johnson ·


NARAL Pro-Choice Endorses Fetterman—Who Vows to End Senate Filibuster to Protect Abortion Rights

"We know we can count on him to boldly fight for abortion rights and access," said the head of one of the nation's largest reproductive rights advocacy groups.

Jon Queally ·

Common Dreams Logo