For many, especially folks who live in the South, the arctic outbreak that has gripped the nation’s heartland for the past week is the kind of cold that only happens once in a century. Countless record cold temperatures were set. Conditions overwhelmed the Texas power grid, cutting off electricity to millions and bursting water pipes, creating a humanitarian crisis.
But with climate change making for generally warmer winters and causing heat records to outnumber cold records by 2 to 1 globally over the past decade, this historic cold snap may seem counterintuitive. It’s not. In fact, paradoxically, a warmer climate may have actually contributed to the extreme cold.
Texas prides itself on being different. Yet it is in the grip of a winter storm that typifies the Snowmageddon-size problems facing energy in America. Although nobody can be sure if this particular freeze is a sign of climate change, the growing frequency of extreme weather across the country is. Texan infrastructure has buckled. The problem is not, as some argue, that Texas has too many renewables. Gas-fired plants and a nuclear reactor were hit, as well as wind turbines. Worse, Texas had too little capacity and its poorly connected grid was unable to import power from elsewhere (see article). Texas shows that America needs both a cleaner grid and a more reliable one.
Much of the Pacific Northwest is blanketed in snow. Texas continues to endure frigid weather and electricity outages. Another winter storm is spreading across much of the country. Today, snow or freezing rain may fall on Washington, New York and Boston.
To make sense of this week’s cold spell and storms, I spoke with John Schwartz, a Times reporter who focuses on the climate. Our conversation follows…
Whichever side of the subjective city-versus-rural debate you’re on, the objective laws of thermodynamics dictate that cities lose on at least one front: They tend to get insufferably hotter, more so than surrounding rural areas. That’s thanks to the urban heat-island effect, in which buildings and roads readily absorb the sun’s energy and release it well into the night. The greenery of rural areas, by contrast, provides shade and cools the air by releasing water.
The year 2019 will live long in the memory of Australians – the hottest and driest year on record, where towns ran out of water and bushfires destroyed thousands of homes. But this is just the beginning, with this decade likely to be the coolest this century.
August besieged California with a heat unseen in generations. A surge in air-conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid, leaving a population already ravaged by the coronavirus to work remotely by the dim light of their cellphones. By mid-month, the state had recorded possibly the hottest temperature ever measured on earth — 130 degrees in Death Valley — and an otherworldly storm of lightning had cracked open the sky. From Santa Cruz to Lake Tahoe, thousands of bolts of electricity exploded down onto withered grasslands and forests, some of them already hollowed out by climate-driven infestations of beetles and kiln-dried by the worst five-year drought on record. Soon, California was on fire.
Riskthinking.AI examines and prices intersecting and cascading risks such as these using algorithmically-generated scenarios-tools and analytics.
Mass loss from 2007 to 2017 due to melt-water and crumbling ice aligned almost perfectly with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s (IPCC) most extreme forecasts, which see the two ice sheets adding up to 40 centimetres (nearly 16 inches) to global oceans by 2100, they reported in Nature Climate Change. Such an increase would have a devastating impact worldwide, increasing the destructive power of storm surges and exposing coastal regions home to hundreds of millions of people to repeated and severe flooding.
California is burning, a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph just blasted into the Louisiana coast, and nearly 180,000 are reported dead from a viral outbreak that is just a harbinger of what one scientist calls “a new pandemic era” driven in part by our changing climate and wanton destruction of ecosystems. While there are positive indicators that people are waking up to the growing threat of climate change, a much greater pace and scale of climate action is needed to stave off its worst effects. Riskthinking.ai provides clients with forward-looking scenarios tools that render a deeper understanding of the true cost of climate risk, in order to drive timely decision-making.
Extreme weather fuelled by climate change is on the rise- and so are the associated costs. In the last 40 years, 663 disasters linked to climate change in the United States killed 14,223 people. The total cost: an estimated $1.77 trillion, a bit more than Canada’s Gross National Product in 2018.
Firefighters battled nearly two dozen wildfires in California yesterday after a week of raging blazes blackened more than 1 million acres across the state. The rapidly spreading fire, which has killed five people, destroyed more than 1,000 structures and forced thousands to flee, is the result of hotter temperatures, less dependable precipitation and snowpack that melts sooner leading to drier soil and parched vegetation, shows how climate change is affecting the nation’s most populous state.