Where progressives and conservatives agree on clean energy

April 9, 2021 by  
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Where progressives and conservatives agree on clean energy Sarah Golden Fri, 04/09/2021 – 01:45 From an ideological perspective, it’s curious that clean energy became a partisan issue. Looking at it as a technology, there is a ton to like about renewables across the political spectrum.  This hasn’t escaped political conservatives outside the beltway. A number of conservative groups champion clean energy, from the Conservative Energy Network (CEN) and Young Conservatives for Energy Reform (YCER) to the Christian Coalition for America .  As the federal government considers a massive infrastructure bill that would spur clean energy growth and decarbonize the economy, it’s worth looking at where the conservative and progressive ideologies align on clean energy, and where they diverge.  CONVERGENCE: Energy independence Nothing should be more on-brand for conservatives than owning and controlling your own power. Solar panels could be rebranded as “don’t-take-my-gun-away energy.” Perhaps this is why CEN calls subscribers “energy patriots.” When millions lost power during Texas’ deadly energy crisis in February, former governor Rick Perry expressed this sentiment of rugged individualism — even if it came at the expense of grid resilience.  “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” Perry said.  Of course, independence and resilience shouldn’t be a tradeoff, and no one is advocating it should be. The point is that the concept of energy independence — be it from other nations or your own government — is an attractive idea across the political spectrum.  From a national security perspective, clean energy also allows the U.S. to become less reliant on foreign oil states. The Military Advisory Board, a group of retired high-level officers from the U.S. Armed Forces, sees getting off foreign oil and getting onto clean energy as a top national security concern — both in terms of the threats that emerge from climate change and the resources the U.S. expends to secure foreign oil interests.  “As new energy options emerge to meet global demand, nations that lead stand to gain; should the U.S. sit on the sidelines, it does so at considerable risk to our national security,” writes the group on its website .  CONVERGENCE: Local empowerment Some rural communities are beginning to reap economic development benefits from renewables, warming locals to the solar and wind industries. A report from RMI, ” Seeds of Opportunity ,” says that by 2030, annual revenues from wind and solar projects could exceed $60 billion. That’s on par with the expected revenues from corn, soy and beef combined, America’s top three agricultural commodities. In Texas, renewable energy projects are expected to generate upwards of $5.7 billion in tax revenue for communities and $7.3 billion directly to landowners in lease payments over the life of the projects. This is a welcome revenue stream for farmers trying to make ends meet and communities historically dependent on oil and gas.  “The cows love wind turbines; they walk around them all day and follow the shadows that they cast,” said Louis Brooks Jr. of Nolan County, a Texas rancher, in a report . “We now have good roads on our land [because of the wind farm] that make it easier to take care of our cattle. It has been super. … It is not perfect, but I wish we had more of them on our land.” In Wyoming, towns previously reliant on fossil fuels have seen local budgets grow thanks to wind tax revenue, including Cheyenne and Rawlins . The local potential of clean energy is key to some progressive clean energy organizations’ agendas, as well. The Solutions Project , for example, funds 100 local organizations designed to bring the benefits of clean energy to marginalized communities. BlocPower works to bring advanced energy technologies to low-income homes in urban settings.  At the core of these initiatives: owning and controlling energy supports local economies.  CONVERGENCE: American competitiveness America has a proud history of innovation. But the nation has fallen behind in clean energy investment and risks missing out on growing markets. The U.S. ranks fourth , behind Japan, China and the European Union, on research and development for energy technologies as a share of GDP. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill includes investments to make American companies competitive in the race to develop affordable clean energy technologies. The goal would be to grow the economy and create millions of jobs. For example, China is dominating in battery innovation and manufacturing globally. Through Biden’s proposed $174 billion investment in the electric vehicle market , the administration sees a path to a domestic supply chain that would keep the economic benefits in America — and position manufacturers to sell abroad.  America’s innovative spirit fits nicely into conservative ideology, as summarized in this quote from Tyler Duvelius, CEN’s director of external affairs (and YCER alum): “America gave the world flight, we put man on the moon and harnessed electricity. Clean energy is the next great frontier of American innovation.” Of course, conservatives also have balked at the idea of the government picking winners, and they point to past clean energy failures as a sign of government overreach. The poster child for this is Solyndra , a solar company that received federal grant money from the 2009 stimulus bill and later went bankrupt.  Progressives point to these investments as an important part of spurring forward other burgeoning technologies, from smartphones to natural gas and the internet.  “You have to step up to the plate and take a swing in order to hit the ball, and sometimes you swing and you miss,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to the New York Times . “But if you never swing, you will never hit the ball, and you’ll never get a run. So the overall benefits of the Obama-era clean energy investments were overwhelmingly a net positive.” DIVERGENCE: Equating social justice and clean energy policy Over the years, the fight for racial justice and climate actions have merged in some progressive circles. They are different sides of the same fight, so it is impossible to systematically address one without the others. As a candidate, Biden’s climate platform featured addressing environmental racism as one of its five planks. Today, the infrastructure bill features provisions focused on fighting racial and economic inequities.  According to reports, Republicans scoff at those provisions, calling them a “Trojan horse” of liberal policies. The CEN website echoes the idea that the infrastructure proposal is too sweeping in its focus on racial justice. “We cannot afford to wrap a costly political wishlist into a broader infrastructure package,” wrote CEN’s director of policy and advocacy, Landon Stevens, in an op-ed on the organization’s website. Of course, conservatives can see the economic potential of embracing clean energy without supporting the social justice elements. But this ideological divergence touches such polarizing topics, it seems to inspire everyone to dig in their heels.  DIVERGENCE: The role of fossil fuels in the transition Most progressive organizations, using climate science as a guide, advocate for the quick transition away from all fossil fuels.  Language from conservative clean energy advocates instead talks about “market-based” transitions for encouraging alternatives.  “Our solutions are simple yet effective,” wrote a group of Republican members of Congress in an op-ed last month, including Rep. Dan Newhouse (Washington) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California). “Where many Democrats want to shut down, ban and overregulate, we want to incentivize, innovate and progress through market-based solutions.” Those guided by climate science point to the need to rapidly transition — faster than market forces can act. They also note that decades-long disinformation campaigns from fossil fuels companies mean we’re decades behind on the transition and that delaying action is the latest incarnation of climate denial.  Rewiring America, an organization that has mapped out how to combat climate change through electrification that leans progressive, argues that policy mandate is the only way to reach our climate goals.  “The invisible hand of markets is definitely not fast enough; it typically takes decades for a new technology to become dominant by market forces alone as it slowly increases its market share each year,” the Rewiring America handbook says. “A carbon tax isn’t fast enough, either. Market subsidies are not fast enough.” While there are certainly differences in the conservative and progressive approach to America’s clean energy future, it’s possible we’re closer to agreement than we think. And that, perhaps, the points of divergence (which are truly important and shouldn’t be ignored), don’t need to stand in the way of progress where it can be made. Especially at a moment when two-thirds of Americans think the government should do more on climate. Want more great analysis of the clean energy transition? Sign up for Energy Weekly , our free email newsletter. Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Lightspring Close Authorship

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Where progressives and conservatives agree on clean energy

Texas lawsuit fights environmental racism in highway expansion project

March 24, 2021 by  
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Starting in the years after World War II, Black neighborhoods around the U.S. were destroyed and replaced with highways in the name of urban renewal. But people in Harris County, Texas have had enough. The county is suing the state to stop an I-45 expansion that would displace more than 1,000 households and would mostly affect people of color and low-income residents. The plan is to elevate segments of the highway in North Houston and add several lanes. In addition to the 1,079 households affected, the highway widening would displace 341 businesses, two schools and five churches. Flooding, traffic and higher levels of air pollution pose additional concerns. Related: A Chinese highway becomes a vibrant, community-centered ‘livable street’ The Biden administration and the Federal Highway Administration have voiced their opinions supporting residents’ civil rights. “This is an opportunity for this new administration to really back up what it’s been saying regarding highway projects that perpetuate environmental racism ,” said Bakeyah Nelson of Air Alliance Houston, as reported by The Guardian . Nelson thinks it’s a mistake to build homes this close to highways in the first place. “These affordable housing units are in locations where they’re already being exposed to greater environmental hazards than if they were farther away from the highway,” she said. The state has stood by the $7 billion expansion plan, saying it needs to update the freeway and increase its capacity. But not all studies back the thesis that more lanes lead to less congestion. An analysis of an earlier highway widening project in Houston concluded that it wound up increasing the average commute time for about 85% of motorists using the highway (and that highway spanned a whopping 26 lanes at its widest point). “For a generation we’ve gone on building more lanes, putting down more concrete, thinking that somehow magically that’s going to reduce traffic,” said Lina Hidalgo, Harris County judge, in a March 11 press conference. “We cannot continue to support transportation policy that prioritizes cars over people.” Via The Guardian and Catalyst Image via Patrick Feller

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NOAA predicts drought in the west, flooding in the east

March 24, 2021 by  
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Prepare for more drought in the West and flooding in the East, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s spring outlook report. Most of the western half of the country is already in moderate to exceptional drought conditions, which, unfortunately, is likely to expand into the most significant spring drought since 2013. The  drought  could impact about 74 million people. “The Southwest U.S., which is already experiencing widespread severe to exceptional drought, will remain the hardest hit region in the U.S., and water supply will continue to be a concern this spring in these drought-affected areas,” said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service. “This is a major change from recent years where millions were impacted by severe flooding. Nonetheless, NOAA’s forecasts and outlooks will continue to serve as a resource for  emergency  managers and community decision-makers as they navigate all potential extreme seasonal weather and water events.” Related: New study predicts 6-month summers by 2100 Why so dry? The failed 2020 summer monsoon, low  soil  moisture and warmer than usual temperatures are all reasons cited by the NOAA. Southern Florida and the southern and central Great Plains will see increased drought conditions. If there’s not enough spring rain, the northern Plains could also see its existing drought worsen. As for flooding, the NOAA isn’t predicting major or prolonged flooding. But a lot of minor to moderate floods will likely hit the coastal plain of the Carolinas and the Lower Missouri and Lower Ohio River basins. Many Midwestern streams are swollen from late-winter rainfall.  NOAA  publishes seasonal outlooks to help people prepare for what’s in store.  “Our national hydrologic assessment helps to inform the nation where there will likely be too much or too little water. This spring, we anticipate a reduced risk for flooding , and forecast significantly below average water supply where impacts due to low flow contribute to the continued drought,” said Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Via NOAA Lead image via Pixabay Additional images via NOAA

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Tesla is building a 100MW battery in Texas

March 11, 2021 by  
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Under the guise of Gambit Energy Storage LLC, a secretive subsidiary of Tesla, a new, 100-megawatt battery is coming to Angleton, Texas. Angleton is located approximately 40 miles south of Houston and has a population of about 20,000. The project follows a massive winter storm that rendered the Texas power grid useless. The new battery is expected to work as a backup to the grid, as climate change has made it clear that relying on the grid may not be tenable for the future. The battery is expected to power up to 20,000 homes. When the project is complete, the residents of the town may no longer have to worry about power outages, even in the most extreme weather events. The project is slated to start operating in June 2021. Related: Tesla — the real environmental impact The Gambit project has drawn a lot of attention nationally, not because of its type but due to the secretive manner in which it is being conducted. The locals say that the workers on the site appear to be under strict instructions not to draw attention or respond to public questions. Reporters had to dig deep to link Gambit to Tesla. Elon Musk’s Telsa has been investing in energy quietly but rapidly. “Tesla’s energy storage business on a percentage basis is growing faster than their car business, and it’s only going to accelerate,” said Daniel Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood MacKenzie Power and Renewables. “They are absolutely respected as a player, and they are competing aggressively on price.” In 2015, Tesla introduced its first Powerwall home batteries . Later, it expanded to larger grid offerings with the Megapack. The company has multiple battery projects, including a 100 megawatt project in South Australia, a 20 megawatt Southern California Edison Mira Loma substation just east of Los Angeles and an upcoming 182.5 megawatt system in the San Francisco Bay Area that is expected to begin operations in August 2021. These projects offer clear indications of Telsa’s fight for a space in the green energy market. Musk himself has been quoted saying that the energy business is bigger than the automotive industry, an indication that the company will focus more on clean energy in the future. + Gambit Energy Storage Park Via EcoWatch and Bloomberg Image via Tesla

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Texas power outages lead to deaths of animals in a sanctuary

February 23, 2021 by  
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Several animals, including monkeys, chimpanzees and lemurs, have died at a Texas animal sanctuary due to freezing temperatures and a power outage. According to a statement released by Primarily Primates, the sanctuary affected by the outage, they were not prepared for an outage of the magnitude experienced. “To be clear, we have never lost power for any significant amount of time, and have never experienced rolling blackouts multiple days without power. So no, we did not have commercial-grade generators to power all of the buildings, enclosures and heated bedrooms on our 78-acre property that would be required during such a catastrophic weather event ,” Primarily Primates said in a statement . Related: Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires The electricity went out at the sanctuary last Monday, forcing staff members to try to capture about 32 animals and herd them into a warmed-up enclosure. Unfortunately, some of the animals proved to be stubborn. At least 12 of the creatures died. “Some of these lemurs and monkeys would not go in,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, a group that manages the Primarily Primates sanctuary. “Alpha monkeys would not go into their heated bedrooms. Their subordinates went in. We lost a few monkeys that way.” One of the animals that died was the sanctuary’s 58-year-old chimpanzee, Violet. Although most of the animals are now in safe, warm enclosures, the sanctuary and the San Antonio Zoo have been calling on locals to donate items such as flashlights, blankets, generator fuel and other necessities. “We have been inundated with so much love and support and we can’t begin to thank everyone enough,” the sanctuary said. “We now have more than a dozen loaned small generators up and running along with numerous propane heaters keeping all our animals on the property safe and warm.” As power is restored to Texas, the sanctuary plans to put any additional donations toward generators of its own in case of future emergencies. Primarily Primates is home to animals formerly used and often neglected in labs, the entertainment industry and the exotic pet trade. + Primarily Primates Via Huffington Post Image via Gerrit Bril

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Texas power outages lead to deaths of animals in a sanctuary

US officially rejoins Paris Agreement

February 23, 2021 by  
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As promised, President Joe Biden has helped the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate accord after Donald Trump’s reign of eco-terror. As of last Friday, it’s official. But now comes the hard part: getting the U.S. to set and meet a national target for cutting fossil fuel emissions. Although the U.S. president is also busy with COVID-19 deaths surpassing 500,000, the climate just can’t wait. As Biden said to the Munich security conference, “We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change . This is a global existential crisis, and all of us will suffer if we fail.” Related: Biden signs executive order to rejoin Paris Agreement Biden’s challenge is to set a realistic target while balancing tricky financial and political realities in a country where many citizens deny the climate is even changing. His administration wants to settle on a U.S. emissions goal by April, in time for the Earth Day summit Biden is hosting. Climate leaders are hoping that a strong U.S. plan will serve as a good role model for other countries figuring out how to cut their emissions. Many Republican leaders are skeptical. “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change,” tweeted Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the Senate energy panel’s top Republican. “The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.” Paris accord leaders want to keep global warming from reaching 3.6°F (2°C) higher than pre-industrial times. Already the world is up 2.2°F (1.2°C), leaving us very little wiggle room. Thanks to Trump’s stance on the environment, the U.S. was officially out of the Paris Agreement for 107 days. Some environmental leaders worried that when a Trump-led U.S. abandoned the accord, other countries would follow. Fortunately, none did. Now, Biden has the challenge of reversing Trump’s four years of climate inaction. The world awaits the nation’s new emission -cutting plan. Via AP Image via H. Hach

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US officially rejoins Paris Agreement

A modern cabin in rural Washington celebrates indoor/outdoor living

February 23, 2021 by  
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Eager to relax and unwind from city living, a retired aerospace engineer reached out to Seattle-based David Coleman Architecture to design a modern, energy-efficient cabin on a 10-acre rural site in Sultan, Washington. Located about an hour outside of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the idyllic meadow property inspired the client’s vision for a playful home deeply connected to the land with an emphasis on indoor/outdoor living. As a result, the architects created a dynamic, single-story dwelling — dubbed Field House — that embraces nature from multiple directions and sits lightly on the land with a small energy footprint. In addition to sweeping panoramic views, the client had a long list of design features he wanted for his new home. One of the more unusual requests was the organization of the cabin on an offset grid with acute angles to create “dynamic spatial experiences” enjoyed both inside and out of the home. To strengthen its relationship to the surroundings, the cabin features an exposed wood structure that pays homage to the region’s timber heritage as well as an indoor courtyard surrounded by glazing that blurs the line between indoors and out. Three sheltered porches extend the footprint of the 1,500-square-foot Field House to the outdoors, with the most dramatic of the three topped by a triangular roof punctuated with a large, open oculus.  Related: ÖÖD prefab glass cabin immerses you in nature while you work To meet high-performance energy standards, the home features well- insulated glazing and walls, an on-demand water system and a mini-split heat pump system. “The resulting building is essentially a platform for viewing the rise and fall of the sun, the change of the seasons , and the natural beauty that flows by and through the site,” the architects explained in a project statement. Approximately 50 horses and 20 ponies roam the open pasture lands surrounding the home. + David Coleman Architecture Photography by Lara Swimmer via David Coleman Architecture

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A modern cabin in rural Washington celebrates indoor/outdoor living

Water-powered shower head speaker made from recycled plastic wins honors at CES

February 23, 2021 by  
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Whether it’s podcasts,  music  or audiobooks, humans are streaming audio content now more than ever. Now, thanks to wireless tech company Ampere, the sound doesn’t have to stop when it’s time for a shower. Audiophiles, meet Shower Power, the water-powered showerhead made from recycled plastic. This hydropower speaker syncs with  Bluetooth  to deliver high-quality sound straight to your showerhead, automatically turning on and off with the water. Skip tracks, play or pause with the touch of a button on the showerhead itself, or use the waterproof remote control. The device’s design features a cylindrical shape with a South Wave amplifier to provide excellent listening quality, despite its small size. Related: 8 ways to make your bathroom more eco-friendly If the 360-degree sound wave diffuser isn’t enough, Ampere has also designed a “Droplet” mini Bluetooth speaker that connects to the Shower Power so you can fill your entire  bathroom  with music. The company also has plans to develop a LED light edition of the speaker that syncs music with a light show inside the shower. So how does it work exactly? The patent-pending proprietary hydropower system turns water flow into energy as the water spins an impeller housed inside the device, like a watermill. That system is connected to a small generator that charges an internal  battery , turning the Shower Power on as the water turns on and storing power even after the shower turns off — enough for 20 hours of listening time on a full charge. The device is made to fit onto any showerhead, resulting in an easy one-minute installation and the ability to take it with you while traveling. Energy  isn’t the only thing Shower Power saves. The speaker is made out of a compound using 100% recycled ocean plastic developed specifically for shower use. Each device reuses 15 ocean-bound plastic water bottles. With all these unique features, it’s no surprise that Shower Power was named as an honoree for the 2021 CES Innovation Awards. The suggested retail price is $99, but it is still available for preorder through Indiegogo or Kickstarter at a limited discounted price. + Ampere Images via Ampere

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Water-powered shower head speaker made from recycled plastic wins honors at CES

Volunteers brave winter storm to save cold-stunned sea turtles

February 19, 2021 by  
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While the brutal winter storms across the U.S. are difficult for humans, they also put wildlife at risk, particularly cold-blooded reptiles, like sea turtles . Fortunately, instead of staying home and trying to keep warm during massive power outages, volunteers in coastal Texas are braving stormy waters and cold weather by boat or on foot to haul in cold-stunned sea turtles. Sea Turtle, Inc. is overseeing this massive rescue, which has saved over 4,500 sea turtles since last Sunday. The conservation nonprofit is getting creative to house all these turtles. About 500 are in bins in the organization’s own facility. The other 4,000 are currently residing at the South Padre Island Convention Center. Instead of the center’s usual business trade show or convention crowd, it is hosting sea turtles in a wall-to-wall array of kiddie pools, boxes and tarps. Perhaps the most impressive turtle rescued so far weighs 400 pounds and is about 150 years old. Related: Climate change pushes US weather to extremes “The love and support of people who just want to help things that can’t help themselves is overwhelming,” said Wendy Knight, executive director of Sea Turtle, Inc. In addition to individual volunteers , local government-built turtle storage platforms and SpaceX, which has a nearby launch site, provided something really special. “Like a ray from heaven, yesterday at 7:30 p.m. the site director and operations manager for SpaceX Boca Chica and two electricians and engineers from SpaceX showed up on our property with the largest generator I’ve ever seen,” Knight told NPR on Wednesday. With no end yet to the cold weather , the turtles will probably stay in the convention center at least until the weekend. If more turtles are rescued, a third storage facility will be necessary. Cold-blooded animals like turtles are especially vulnerable to weather extremes, as they are unable to regulate their body temperatures. Cold stun happens when water temperatures drop below 50°F. Suddenly, sea turtles find themselves unable to move and may become stranded or injured; they could even drown. Texas has five species of sea turtles, all of which are considered either threatened or endangered. + Sea Turtle, Inc. Via NPR Image via Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

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Volunteers brave winter storm to save cold-stunned sea turtles

Climate change pushes US weather to extremes

February 18, 2021 by  
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Terrible hurricanes in the summer and temperatures now plunging to the lowest they’ve been in decades in much of the U.S. — is all this bad weather just bad luck? Not according to climate scientists, who say this deadly weather is one more sign of climate change . Oklahoma City saw a temperature this week of -14°F, the coldest it’s been since 1899, before Oklahoma was even a state. In Texas, Dallas dropped to -2°F, while southerly Houston and San Antonio got down to 13°F and 12­°F, respectively. In New Orleans, if COVID-19 hadn’t already ruined Mardi Gras, ice would have. Many cities across the U.S. have or are expected to hit record low temperatures this week. Related: Spiders are becoming aggressive thanks to climate change Then, there were power outages galore — more than 4.2 million people without power in Texas alone on Tuesday morning — to make deadly storms even more lethal. In this topsy-turvy world, Texans would be more comfortable right now in Iceland. “There are waves in the jet stream and because of climate change and the warmer air in the Arctic and the largely ice-free Arctic sea, those waves are able to go far south,” said Chris Gloninger, a meteorologist with NBC10 Boston. “So places like Alaska or Iceland, which today is in the low 40s, is warmer than places like Texas, Louisiana or Oklahoma. That’s why we’re seeing these extremes.” Texas is especially vulnerable to the current storms because its main electric grid is separate from the rest of the country. Texas is better known for A/C than for heaters, and this week’s need for cranking up the heat broke the grid, plunging vulnerable Texans into cold and darkness. At least 20 people in the state have died from these conditions. Are we convinced yet? Extreme weather sure is making it harder for climate change deniers to win their arguments, according to Michael E. Mann, author of The New Climate War, as reported by NBCLX . “We really are so close to seeing the action that we need to confront the climate crisis,” Mann said. “But there are still obstacles that have been thrown in our path by the same institutions that were denying climate change years ago. There’s no way to deny it now because people can see it playing out in real time in the form of unprecedented, devastating weather events.” You can find more information on where to donate money or resources to those experiencing these life-threatening cold conditions here and here . Via NBCLX and CNN Image via NOAA ( 1 , 2 )

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