You don’t have to listen too carefully to hear it. Although it is still too early to say for sure, the Texas freeze fits a recent pattern of increasingly destructive “global weirding.” I much prefer that term over “climate change” or “global warming.” Because what happens as average global temperatures rise, ice melts, jet streams shift and the climate changes is that the weather gets weird. The hots get hotter, the colds get colder, the wets get wetter, the dries get drier and the most violent storms get more frequent. Those once-in-100-years floods, draughts, heat waves or deep freezes start to happen every few years. That’s how we will experience climate change.
According to a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: “The U.S. has sustained 285 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including C.P.I. adjustment to 2020). The total cost of these 285 events exceeds $1.875 trillion. … The years with 10 or more separate billion-dollar disaster events include 1998, 2008, 2011-2012, and 2015-2020.” This year, after this Texas disaster alone, could set a record — and we’re only in February.
If global weirding is our new normal, we need a whole new level of buffers, redundancies and supply inventories to create resilience for our power grids — and many more distributed forms of energy, like solar, that can enable households to survive when the grid goes down. Looking to maximize profits around fossil fuels in an age of global weirding is just begging to get hammered.
As Hal Harvey, C.E.O. of Energy Innovation, remarked to me: “Cavemen understood that you have to store things up to be secure. Birds know that. Squirrels know that. So, what are we doing? And what was Texas doing?”
Every leader needs to be asking those questions. Leadership always matters. But today, it matters more than ever at every level. Because in a slower age, if your city, state or country had a bad leader and got off track, the pain of getting back on track was tolerable. Now, when climate change, globalization and technology are all accelerating at once, small errors in navigation can have huge consequences. They can leave your community or country so far off track that the pain of getting back on track can be excruciating.
Just look at Texas and you’ll know what I mean. And just look up at Mars, and think of the mind-set that got us there, and you’ll know what needs to change.
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