I wouldn't call the 2004 film, The Day After Tomorrow, based on Art Bell's book, The Coming Global Superstorm, great; just effectively... threatening. It was the Bush-Cheney era and the Cheney character in the film is established as the villainous climate change-denier right from the start. When the relatively innocuous president dies in the super-storm, he becomes president of a dying country. As the northern states freeze solid, residents of Texas and the Southern states are urged to flee to Mexico where there might be a chance of survival. The Cheney character is last seen broadcasting from the U.S. Embassy. I remember wishing he die-- along with all climate change deniers in politics and the media. I have to admit, I still feel very much the same way, even more so now.
I hope the Ted Cruz kerfuffle destroys his miserable career, although Cruz has done much worse than sneaking off to Cancun and then lying about it. (This was his French Laundry moment and I hope Texas Republicans will do to him what California Democrats are doing to the also worthless Gavin Newsom.) But what's happening in Texas goes way beyond Cruz's stupidity and is not just about one flawed senator's weak character.
So far around 60 people have died in the catastrophic storm Cruz was fleeing. They died-- and continue dying-- from hypothermia, drownings, carbon monoxide poisoning, car crashes, house fires... Over 4 million Texans lost power with temperatures in single digits. Millions no loner had tap water. The NY Times put it like this: Texas Crisis Exposes A Nation's Vulnerability To Climate Change. Ted Cruz may have abandoned Snowflake, the family poodle, but "signs of the risks posed by increasingly extreme weather to America’s aging infrastructure [are] cropping up across the country. The week’s continent-spanning winter storms triggered blackouts in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and several other states. One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted. The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country’s economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways. Much of this infrastructure was built decades ago, under the expectation that the environment around it would remain stable, or at least fluctuate within predictable bounds. Now climate change is upending that assumption... Sewer systems are overflowing more often as powerful rainstorms exceed their design capacity. Coastal homes and highways are collapsing as intensified runoff erodes cliffs. Coal ash, the toxic residue produced by coal-burning plants, is spilling into rivers as floods overwhelm barriers meant to hold it back. Homes once beyond the reach of wildfires are burning in blazes they were never designed to withstand. Problems like these often reflect an inclination of governments to spend as little money as possible..."
If the Texas blackouts exposed one state’s poor planning, they also provide a warning for the nation: Climate change threatens virtually every aspect of electricity grids that aren’t always designed to handle increasingly severe weather. The vulnerabilities show up in power lines, natural-gas plants, nuclear reactors and myriad other systems.
Higher storm surges can knock out coastal power infrastructure. Deeper droughts can reduce water supplies for hydroelectric dams. Severe heat waves can reduce the efficiency of fossil-fuel generators, transmission lines and even solar panels at precisely the moment that demand soars because everyone cranks up their air-conditioners.
Climate hazards can also combine in new and unforeseen ways.
In California recently, Pacific Gas & Electric has had to shut off electricity to thousands of people during exceptionally dangerous fire seasons. The reason: Downed power lines can spark huge wildfires in dry vegetation. Then, during a record-hot August last year, several of the state’s natural gas plants malfunctioned in the heat, just as demand was spiking, contributing to blackouts.
...The United States depends on highways, railroads and bridges as economic arteries for commerce, travel and simply getting to work. But many of the country’s most important links face mounting climate threats. More than 60,000 miles of roads and bridges in coastal floodplains are already vulnerable to extreme storms and hurricanes, government estimates show. And inland flooding could also threaten at least 2,500 bridges across the country by 2050, a federal climate report warned in 2018.
Sometimes even small changes can trigger catastrophic failures. Engineers modeling the collapse of bridges over Escambia Bay in Florida during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 found that the extra three inches of sea-level rise since the bridge was built in 1968 very likely contributed to the collapse, because of the added height of the storm surge and force of the waves.
“A lot of our infrastructure systems have a tipping point. And when you hit the tipping point, that’s when a failure occurs,” Dr. Jacobs said. “And the tipping point could be an inch.”
Crucial rail networks are at risk, too. In 2017, Amtrak consultants found that along parts of the Northeast corridor, which runs from Boston to Washington and carries 12 million people a year, flooding and storm surge could erode the track bed, disable the signals and eventually put the tracks underwater.
Nothing is being solved by Texas Republicans and their media allies lying about the causes of why people have been wondering if Texas is a failed state. Veronica Penney reported for the NY Times on Friday that Texas' power infrastructure was "not prepared for the frigid temperatures that accompanied the storm. Natural gas, coal and nuclear plants-- which provide the bulk of Texas’ power in the winter-- were knocked offline, and wind turbines froze, too."
Conservative politicians and pundits were quick to blame wind farms and renewable energy more broadly for the power outages. But natural gas-- which is a crucial power source when electricity usage peaks-- was hit hardest.
“All sources underperformed expectations,” said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston. “But far, far more than everything else combined were the shortfalls from natural gas.”
During the blackouts, the grid lost roughly five times as much power from natural gas as it did from wind. Natural gas production froze, and so did the pipelines that transport the gas. Once power plants went offline, they were not prepared to restart in the below-freezing conditions.
Demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses also spiked, contributing to shortages. And high gas prices further disrupted generation, as operators who could not turn a profit took their plants offline.
Several coal plants and one of Texas’ four nuclear facilities were also knocked offline by cold temperatures.
The usually-balmy state does not require power plants to be winterized-- “as we've painfully come to find out,” said Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at The University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute.
Unlike Trump, who weaponized federal power against blue states in times of emergency, on Saturday "Biden signed a major disaster declaration that will allow much of Texas to tap vast reserves of federal aid... offering a new lifeline to a state struggling to recover from a brutal winter storm that left more than 50 dead and millions without power across the South. As Texas thawed from days of frigid darkness, an epic blame game emerged over who is responsible for the billions of dollars in damages from what some expected would become the most costly weather disaster in state history. Texas’s deregulated electrical grid had triggered mass outages that left residents in the nation’s second-largest state trapped without heat for days in freezing homes. Several died following desperate attempts to stay warm, including a 75-year-old woman and her three young grandchildren in a suburban Houston house fire sparked by a fireplace. Many other households faced jaw-dropping electrical bills from some of the state’s increasingly popular variable-rate plans, which charged thousands of dollars for a few days of power as wholesale energy prices soared. The plans offer a potentially lower-cost alternative to traditional fixed-rate energy payments, but the outages quickly raised havoc. One company, Griddy, said it was forced to raise its prices to 300 times higher than the normal wholesale rate, meaning a typical $2-a-day household would face more than $600 in daily charges."
We'll, leave off with this picture Noah took and this (real) Chris Christie quote: "I will tell you that it’s hard to have sympathy for Ted Cruz, because Ted was right on board making fun of me back in 2017 when I had that incident on the beach… He’s taken every chance he can to take shots at people on both sides of the aisle over the course of his career. So, when you decide that’s what you want to do, especially on personal matters, there’s not going to be a ton of people running to your defense."