Climate Change ☀️
Texas and California built different power grids, but neither stood up to climate change
The catastrophe this week in Texas left more than 4 million people in the dark and the cold, and even more without clean water, when a rare blast of Arctic air drove temperatures down, freezing both natural gas plants and wind turbines.

Texas “planned more for heatwaves than for ice storms,” said Dan Reicher, who worked in the Clinton administration's Energy Department on renewable energy and is now at Stanford University. And the onus now is on figuring out how to prevent a repeat — a tricky situation given the independence of Texas’ grid and sharp opposition from Republicans there to linking up to other states and giving federal regulators oversight of its power system.

So far, the Biden administration has shown little sign of pushing its agenda on Texas, which already leads the nation in wind power. But Congress is eyeing hearings to look at this week's power failures, which are likely to put a spotlight on the state's grid.

... Though scientists haven't definitively tied climate change to the polar vortex that sent temperatures plummeting this week, evidence is starting to show that years of rising temperatures in the Arctic may be playing a role in altering the path of the jet stream that fed the frigid winds into the southern states.

“The way I think about it is you’re opening the door to the freezer," said Katharine Hayhoe, atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University.

And while Texas A&M University climate scientist Andrew Dessler said the link to climate change hadn't been settled, it's undeniable that climate change is fueling more “tail risk” events that were once considered rare. And both Texas and California, which suffered both a devastating heat wave and record wildfires last year, present important questions for how to safeguard critical infrastructure in a warmer world.

“It's kind of the insurance question," Dessler said. "How much do you pay for insurance and take the chance that you'll never use it, versus not having insurance and then getting wiped out?"

... Experts say increasing the connections around the country that allow power to move long distances could help prevent future blackouts.

... "There's a lot of finger pointing by politicians in Texas right now, but there's some very painful lessons for them in terms of the way their market is run," said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. "One of the weaknesses of Texas is they're not connected very well to any other part of the country."

... "The one common element from the California situation and what appears to be the case in Texas, is weather," Richard Glick, chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told reporters Thursday. "All the experts tell us this type of wild unanticipated weather is going to happen much more frequently than has happened in the past. It's incumbent on us and others to ensure the grid is more resilient against those particular extreme weather events."

Glick questioned whether Texas should continue its go-it-alone approach, noting that nearby states with access to generation over transmission lines managed to recover more quickly from the deep freeze, including much of the upper Midwest and even El Paso and Lubbock, Texas, which operate outside Texas' primary network. That Midwest power network is managed by grid operators linked to the rest of the country and suffered rolling blackouts on Monday and Tuesday, but largely recovered by Wednesday.

... Green groups generally agree that more transmission is needed — linking rural areas with lots of sun and wind with population centers will be key to decarbonizing the grid — but they don't think more wires will be the end of the process. Instead, they point to new technologies, like developing "microgrids" that are less reliant on distant power supplies and rolling out batteries that can store power for when it's needed.

Ted Cruz is being mocked over photos showing him loading bottles of water into a car as he seeks to rebuild his reputation after the Cancun vacation debacle
  • Ted Cruz posted pictures on Twitter showing him helping with disaster relief efforts in Texas.
  • Cruz has been criticized for traveling to Cancun for a family vacation amid freezing conditions in Texas.
  • Critics say the images of the senator loading water bottles appear to be staged.
Sen. Ted Cruz is being mocked for posting pictures of himself loading water bottles into a vehicle as he seeks to repair the political damage from jetting off to Cancun for a family vacation during the winter storms that devastated Texas.

Cruz posted the pictures Saturday night showing him loading packs of water into a car in an empty parking lot under the hashtag #TexasStrong.

In the post, Cruz did not say where the pictures were taken.

... The images were posted as Cruz faced fierce criticism for traveling to Mexico's Cancun beach resort on Wednesday as winter storms tore through Texas, leaving at least 47 dead.

"I'm glad someone in Ted Cruz's Senate office finally instructed him on how to fake compassion, humanity, and creating the illusion that he cares about the people he was elected to serve," wrote Melissa Ryan, a researcher on disinformation.

"First you abandon your constituents, now they are crisis photo opps to you? Do you have any shame at all @tedcruz?" wrote David Weissman, an activist and journalist.

Scientist Peter Gleick pointed out that Cruz is apparently violating CDC rules advising travelers returning from Mexico to self-quarantine for 7 days and get a COVID-19 test.

Others contrasted Cruz's response to the disaster with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has raised $4 million in relief for Texas and volunteered at a food bank in Houston, Saturday.

Climate Threats Could Mean Big Jumps in Insurance Costs This Year
The National Flood Insurance Program, which provides the vast majority of United States flood insurance policies, would have to quadruple premiums on high-risk homes inside floodplains to reflect the risks they already face, according to data issued on Monday by the First Street Foundation, a group of academics and experts that models flood risks.

By 2050, First Street projected, increased flooding tied to climate change will require a sevenfold increase.

The new data could point to higher flood insurance costs this year for homes at risk. On April 1, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which runs the flood program, is set to announce new premiums, using modern flood-modeling techniques that more closely reflect the actual risks facing individual properties — the same approach that First Street said it had used in its calculations.

“If they took a purely risk-based approach, it would look like our numbers,” said Jeremy Porter, head of research and development at First Street and director of the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program at the City University of New York. Several U.S. agencies, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, use First Street’s data.

FEMA has issued a statement warning people not to assume that its new system for setting premiums, which it calls Risk Rating 2.0, will produce rate increases that match those modeled by First Street.

“Any entity claiming that they can provide insight or comparison to the Risk Rating 2.0 initiative, including premium amounts, is misinformed and setting public expectations that are not based in fact,” said David I. Maurstad, who runs the flood insurance program for FEMA.

... Climate and disaster experts argue the cost of flood insurance should reflect the full risk of living in flood-prone areas, as a warning to prospective home buyers and a signal to local officials to limit development in those places. Because the federal government has no control over land-use planning or building codes, which are set by state and local governments, the flood insurance program is one of its most powerful tools to influence how and where Americans build homes.

But a big jump in rates may put more pressure on the household budgets of people who already live in vulnerable areas, and also cause home values to fall.

“FEMA recognizes and shares concerns about flood insurance affordability,” Mr. Maurstad said, adding that rates for some people would fall under the new system and stay the same for others. “The number of policies that will see large annual increases is a minority of all policyholders.”

Any jump in costs for current customers would be spread out over years or decades, because Congress prevents FEMA from raising individual homeowners’ premiums by more than 18 percent annually. So even if FEMA’s new system meant that ultimate rates doubled on paper for some people, those who already had coverage would be protected from paying the full increase all at once.

But when a home that’s covered by flood insurance changes owners, the new buyer must pay the full rate right away. So big increases in flood insurance rates could scare off buyers for flood-prone homes, reducing their value or even making them hard to sell.

Climate change, periodic modification of Earth’s climate brought about as a result of changes in the atmosphere as well as interactions between the atmosphere and various other geologic, chemical, biological, and geographic factors within the Earth system.

Source: Climate change - Evidence for climate change | Britannica
Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

Source: Climate Change | United Nations