But even as millions suffer with access to power, water and heat, the political debate over causes and blame is hot and getting hotter. The icy disaster is already a screen on which old arguments are being projected. A few are substantive, based on legitimate disagreements. The others are phony, provoked by bad-faith propaganda.
I’m sure some politicians somewhere are still making these same tired claims, some in the news media have lately been telling the opposite story — that cold extremes like this are, counterintuitively, more likely due to global warming. I think those accounts distort the science. But there is a good-faith argument to be had in this case.
For about the last decade, a number of climate scientists have argued that while the planet overall has indeed been getting warmer, extreme cold snaps are now more likely. I don’t think they are right, but I’m not 100% sure they are wrong, and at least they are making an honest case.
The Texas deep-freeze and colossal power failures have produced a new line of disingenuous nonsense. It’s about the reliability of different energy sources rather than the physics of weather. The claim is that the blackouts are happening because the state has too much renewable energy, and in particular because wind turbines are freezing.
There should also be real debates about how best to prepare for extreme weather.
All these substantive climate debates are happening, of course, in the real world. But a substantial fraction of our elected officials as well as certain media outlets and parts of our population as a whole have checked out of the reality-based community. They prefer to remain committed to climate denialism and their beloved fossil fuels–making it all the more difficult to respond to the very real challenges that events like this present.