Texas blackouts and climate change damage denial


To us who accept scientific consensus, the threat of the climate crisis is something posed demonstrably within material reality. We know the way it manifests through the greenhouse effect, we know who is responsible, especially within the energy industry, and we know the social and market forces which we have to combat. It can be, therefore, quite painful to see the lengths to which ideologues will go to spin their own counter-narrative, an anti-materialist attempt to exonerate the fossil fuel lobby and the system of accumulation that gives said lobby its stranglehold on socioeconomic and political power.

The threat of the climate crisis is something posed demonstrably

For exemplification, we turn to Texas. February saw Texas uncharacteristically hit by freezing temperatures down to -19 degrees Celsius, accompanied by snowfall and ice. Without winter preparations, the power grid was forced to adopt rotating outages, leaving families and homes without adequate heating, and the freezing of pipes also left hundreds of thousands without operational water systems.

This was met by the state’s Republican governor with a condemnation of renewable energy, and it was a narrative snatched up by the most prolific political commentators of American Television, such as Fox propagandist Tucker Carlson. Carlson even added his own spin by lambasting the notion that global warming could possibly exist with Texas freezing as so.

In reality, the truth could not be further from Carlson’s narrative: peer-reviewed scientific research from AER conclusively suggests that climate change is responsible for the temperatures to begin with, more specifically in relation to the fast-paced melting in the Arctic altering the jet stream and polar vortex. This is not the first time that extreme weather events including cold temperatures have been linked to climate change, either – only a few years ago, Chicago’s temperatures dropped even more dramatically (although they did have perhaps more comprehensive infrastructure to deal with the problem).

As for the freezing of wind turbines becoming an attractive scapegoat, wind power makes up less than a quarter of Texas’ power supply, and much more of Texas’ failure to generate power came from the temperatures preventing combustion in regular power stations, where fossil fuels or biofuels are burnt to heat water into steam, which turns a turbine to generate electricity. Furthermore, European wind turbines are designed to withstand -20 degree weather nonetheless when winterised.

A crisis such as this can have lethal and hugely destructive consequences

The one thing which Carlson got spot-on in his analysis, was a fact that often the GOP shies away from admitting: a crisis such as this can have lethal and hugely destructive consequences. Hypothermia can, and did, kill; deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning also appeared, as some Texans attempted to heat their homes using car engines. This weather has had severe consequences, and finding real and ideally permanent solutions is of paramount importance. Consequently, this is where the story becomes significantly darker, but very telling surrounding the attitude of anti-government ideologues towards human survival.

Tim Boyd, then-mayor of Colorado City, Texas, greeted his struggling constituents with this now-viral post:

There are very few opportunities that we get to see, as plainly as we can here, the real implications of the “Don’t Tread On Me” approach to politics, sadly adopted by many US citizens and residents today. When in crisis, human beings have always relied on collaboration as a collective entity (be it in the form of government, or union, or whatever) to see us through.

If one believes that government and its infrastructure owes its citizens nothing, as those who would abolish central collective structure desire, they must make peace with the fact that not everyone’s life is worth saving, or that survival of as many people as possible should not be the driving force of the agenda.

Without the services of government, or other collective movements to provide security to the population, the alternative is a society where the weak are sacrificed to the strong; perhaps it is this resigned acceptance of natural superiority and inferiority that forms the otherwise strange pipeline between libertarian and fascist tendencies. Both take Social Darwinism to levels Herbert Spencer would dream of, and strangely from the very circles who tend to reject actual Darwinism too.

The Texan people do not and should not have to accept leaving their fellow countrymen behind

Unlike the “Don’t Tread On Me” mentality, the Texan people do not and should not have to accept leaving their fellow countrymen behind. In providing adequate infrastructure, funding and effort, the left will always assert that people do not need to die in a crisis such as this, and that avoiding loss of life is the priority, above profits and meaningless ideology.

You may think this sounds somewhat hyperbolic, but it isn’t. Texas is the only state in the continental USA with its own interconnection, i.e. its own isolated power grid. In any other state, power could have crossed state lines to provide adequate means to provide the heating the people needed, but due to Texas wishing to cut costs by avoiding regulation, the state was left without this crucial safety net.

The Texan State Government could also have softened the blow by further diversifying into other sources of green energy – solar, for instance, often is more effective alongside the light-reflective snow. Through more comprehensive infrastructure, Texans do not have to suffer the same extent of crisis, the next time unexpected extreme weather hits.

Texas not only deserves better infrastructure, but also better leaders than those it currently has

Lastly, I could not finish writing this article without mentioning that Texas senator Ted Cruz, a man whose past tweets so cruelly mocked California’s own weather-related crises and the seeming indifference of its leadership, booked a quick getaway to Cancun as his own family’s “game plan”. It might appear that Texas not only deserves better infrastructure but also better leaders than those it currently has.

Image by Ian Livesey via Creative Commons

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