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POLITICO Nightly Tomorrow’s conversation, tonight. Know where the news is going next.
photo above: A sign states that a Fiesta Mart is closed because of a power outage in Austin. Millions of Texans are still without water and electricity as winter storms continue. | Getty Images
WN: When will ____ (I can think of a few unkind, therefore unwritten, names 🙂 ) stop living in denial, and embrace the science of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption/Change (ACD/C)?! This includes close relatives . . .
THE DISASTER HEADED OUR WAY — The polar vortex that has frozen Texas into an unfamiliar state of paralysis has driven America into a very familiar form of political warfare. You could call it the polarized vortex, the cultural battleground where extreme-weather disasters inevitably inspire blizzards of ideologically convenient explanations of why the mess is the other team’s fault.
But there’s really only one clear lesson to be drawn from this mess, which is that in an era of climate change, extreme-weather disasters are getting more common and more costly.
The 2021 Texas “snowado,” like the 2020 California “firenado” and Iowa “derecho,” is just the latest sign we need to upgrade our vocabularies as well as our infrastructure for the disasters heading our way.
The right wants to blame the blackouts in Texas on renewable energy, as if the Republicans who run the state had accidentally adopted a Green New Deal that eliminated fossil fuels and destroyed the reliability of the grid. In fact, Texas is still fossil-fueled, and most of its generation problems this week stemmed from frozen fossil plants and pipelines.
Meanwhile, some progressives have pointed fingers at the deregulation of Texas electricity markets, but that seems mostly irrelevant to the current crisis. They’ve also blasted conservative Republicans for failing to make long-term investments that could have made Texas more resilient to extreme weather, which is a fairer critique, except that liberal Democratic states have neglected to invest in resilient infrastructure as well.
The real problem in Texas is the freaky weather, and unfortunately, climate change is delivering a lot more freaky weather. It may seem counterintuitive that global warming would create a record cold wave, but that’s why Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe calls it “global weirding.”
It’s not just about heat, although 19 of the 20 hottest years in the Earth’s recorded history have occurred in the last 20 years. It’s about the discombobulation of the atmosphere — hotter hots, colder colds, bigger and wetter and stronger storms, odd toggles in the polar vortex and Gulf Stream and other natural forces we take for granted. Today, only a fool expects a hundred-year drought or flood or snowfall event to happen once every hundred years.
What we should expect is the unexpected, and the pain and expense that comes with it. America had a record 22 billion-dollar disasters in 2020. It spent a record $300 billion on disaster relief in 2017. As President Joe Biden likes to point out when he’s pushing his $2 trillion climate action plan, the costs of climate inaction are even worse.
THE HUMAN TOLL — Transportation editor and native Texan Kathryn A. Wolfe writes:
Heading into Day 4 with little relief in sight, Texans are still wrestling with how to get basic needs met. How do you deal with no power, no water — and no reinforcements in sight?
The city of Galveston, a barrier island just outside of Houston, has virtually no power, and as of today, virtually no water. Anna Olivares, a longtime teacher there, said there’s little food available to buy — and what remains is cash-only. “And the food in your refrigerator is spoiled by now. If it wasn’t so dire it would be funny, [but people have] had to put food outside on their porches — it keeps better there,” she said. . . .
Please click on: ACD/C