Well, hotter than normal.
That is the temperature for Wednesday 17 February, referenced to a 1979-2000 base, from John Englander’s blog.
Some parts of the planet’s surface are 15 – 20 degrees Celsius colder than we would expect, and other parts are 15 – 20 degrees Celsius warmer.
However, with climate change one of the big effects is destabilisation of the weather.
As the world warms, the greatest effect is to destabilize the patterns that we consider “normal.” This is critical because it is normal weather patterns enable farmers to plant and harvest crops with proper temperature and rainfall.
The “normal pattern”, however, lulled Texas energy planners to only design for warm/hot temperatures and very, very moderate winters.
When freezing temps, ice, and snow arrived in force, the grid folded without even a fight. (again, as it did back in 2011)
But science makes clear that these disruptions to the normal weather pattern will continue, become more frequent, and likely continue to get worse.
The really simple explanation is that climate is changing profoundly.
So where to now?
We must do three things:
1. Work to slow the planetary warming from the extraordinary level of carbon dioxide emissions ASAP.
2. Design our infrastructure to handle a wider range of extreme weather events. We need to build in greater resiliency.
3. Begin to engineer for real adaptation to the new realities of climate, rising sea level, and weather.
Englander’s big thing is sea level rise. His forthcoming book is Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward. He says sea level rise is unstoppable for many centuries due to excess heat already stored in our oceans profoundly affect more than 10,000 coastal communities world-wide as soon as 2050.
It seems to me that we urgently need cooling rather than just slowing the warming. I’ll repeat here an update I posted at the end of the 2019 post Climate emergency – ecological sustainability within planetary boundaries, and a safe climate.
[Update 17 December 2019:
When I wrote this post I completely forgot a post Assessing dangerous climate change I had written in December 2013 based on a paper by James Hansen and 17 other authors Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.
It’s Hansen’s answer to the climate emergency. It calls for a 6% reduction in emissions each year, starting immediately, that is, in 2013. They warn:
If emissions continue to grow until 2020, as seems likely, emissions will need to reduce by 20% pa thereafter.
In addition, we will need to remove 100 GtC from the atmosphere and hold other greenhouse gases to net zero.
That’s carbon, not CO2. For CO2 multiply by 3.67.
100 GtC is roughly 10 years of emissions.
They suggest an initial carbon tax of $15/tCO2 with a rise of $10 each year to change behaviour, and border taxes for embedded carbon imports.]
We were warned.
Big freeze in Texas
I heard that over 240 million people in the US were affected by the big freeze, but Texas was especially ill-prepared.
This is what happened as residents turned on their heaters, placing much more demand on the power grid than is typical for winter:
- In general, Texas has a generating capacity of about 67,000 megawatts in the winter, compared with 86,000 megawatts in the summer, when temperatures soar and the state’s energy demands usually peak.
But when the polar weather system hit, 28,000 megawatts from natural gas, coal and nuclear plants and 18,000 megawatts from wind and solar sources fell offline, as gas supply lines froze and some turbines stopped spinning, according to the AP. In cold, northern states, these power sources are routinely protected against winter weather and energy reserves are stored in advance of storms; Texas did not apply these same winterization guidelines, AP reported.
Carbon Brief has a comprehensive explainer of the whole thing – what happened, impacts on the oil market, media reaction, the links to climate change, and Ted Cruz doing a runner to Mexico with his family.
There is no running from the ‘new normal’ which in reality is change and instability.