The whole of texas was put under a winter storm warning sunday for the first time ever, the gulf coast, beach town of galveston, saw its first measurable snow since 2008. Dallas fort worth and houston saw their coldest temperatures in over 30 years down to the single digits in some spots. Now as much as this might seem like some one off freak storm, these extreme weather events are becoming much more frequent and that’s because of climate change. As the earth warms, not only is it leading to more severe droughts, wildfires and hotter summer temperatures, but perhaps even counter intuitively it’s, contributing to these crazy cold snaps too, like the ones we’re seeing in texas and across the central us in simple terms, here’s what’s, going On you might remember the term polar vortex that came into our lexicon back in 2014 during a record cold spell across the entire us. The polar vortex is a constant contained swirl of frigid air over the arctic circle held there by a strong jet stream. As seen on the left in this image from the united nations, but climate scientists say that as the earth has gotten warmer, including over the arctic, that jet stream has gotten weaker and you get what you see in the image on the right pockets of that frigid Arctic air are able to dip south, creating a wavy pattern in the jet stream and bringing those bone chilling winter temperatures and storms with them it’s important to note that this is a correlation and not necessarily causation.
The science has decisively concluded that climate change is happening, but scientists are still split on whether these disruptions in the polar vortex are indeed becoming more frequent or, if it’s, just part of the natural dips that happen from time to time. Even so, meteorologists say this particular polar vortex we’re seeing is one of the biggest nastiest and longest lasting they’ve seen since they started watching in the 1950s, and as the situation in texas has exposed, our power grids may not be equipped to handle the effect of climate Change, as one expert told nbc, grid operators can plan only for peaks and surges that they see coming a task made only more difficult by climate change because, as he said, the last 40 years might not be reflective of what’s coming down the pike. The next 40 years, considering research group climate central found that extreme weather related power outages jumped 67 since the year 2000 we could be in for a serious problem. Joining me now is environmental reporter emily atkin, who writes the daily climate newsletter, heated she’s, also a contributor to msnbc daily emily thanks so much for coming on the show you’ve been covering climate change for years. How has the science on the polar vortex and specifically its connection to climate change, the discussion around that? How has that advanced in the last five or six years? Well, like all climate science we’re, just getting more of it and it’s getting much stronger? And there are a lot more voices, so when i first started covering um the polar vortex in 2014, as you mentioned, you know there were really maybe only one or two scientists who i could find openly talking about this connection between a weakened debt, jet stream and Climate change and actually saying that the cold snap that we were in could not only be not something that didn’t disprove climate change, but something that was caused by climate change, um, and now this is common uh.
This is common in the literature um and this this phenomenon that we see of this weekend, jet stream, which doesn’t just bring arctic air down to texas. You know it brings arctic air into very strange places it that it it has never been before it happens in in europe and other countries um as well, and it contributes to a lot of weird patterns. So this has been it’s almost like this big mystery. That more and more climate scientists have been trying to figure out, but what we really know is that the correlation is there as the climate gets warmer. These things, these crazy things keep happening, and you and you write in in heated in your newsletter. You write that this particular polar vortex event right now is much worse than the one. In 2014, you covered on multiple fronts: how so yeah it’s weird how we sort of forget that we’re freaking out so much about this other polar vortex and now and now this doesn’t seem like it’s worse, but it is, i mean more people have died for one Already at least 20 people have died and 21 people died in that um polar vortex event that lasted almost a month, uh last time so we’re, starting this to be a much more deadly event and also it’s affecting a population that’s much less prepared for extreme weather, Which is another phenomenon we see with climate change, as you can see, with texas they’re not used to having cold weather winter storms it’s.
One thing for a winter storm like this to hit minnesota it’s quite different when it hits when it hits texas and that contributes to deadlier outcomes. Yeah, and let me ask you this i’m going to be talking more about it later in the show. But you now have texas republicans pretty much putting the blame on everything but themselves and fossil fuels and the new favorite scapegoat is wind turbines. Uh. Is this war on wind, just the latest iteration of the climate denial movement, the climate denial movement is the most sophisticated. Um lie that the republican party has people talk about the big lie being election denial, the big lie. The biggest lie has always been climate denial. It’S one of the most long standing complex uh lies that the republican party tells and anything that they can say to deflect blame from themselves from this crisis. They actually have to say, because once you actually recognize the magnitude of the crisis that we’re up against and you recognize the culpability of the people that have been lying about it for years. Well then, you’re responsible for quite a bit once you start admitting that so just expect to see more and more deflections blaming anything except the science talking to anybody except actual climate scientists, um and stating anything except the facts on this it’s gon na be maddening and Terrible uh, you thought the lies were done with donald trump. No, yes, no they’re not, and we saw that last night and, as i said, i’ll be talking about some of the fox news coverage of this crisis and how awful and dishonest it is later in the show.
Let me ask you this emily before i let you go there’s sure to be a post mortem on what went wrong in texas and its power grid and why it was so unprepared uh. But this is a concern for all of our powerful infrastructure and getting prepared. Has its complications, not just because of the cost to prepare, but not knowing quite what to prepare for bigger hurricanes, more flooding, more droughts, stronger snowstorms, all of it together i mean: where does the government both state federal local? Where does it start when it wants to get prepared climate scientists? I mean, if we can, just we are very behind in listening to climate scientists, they’ve been telling us for years start preparing your infrastructure for very unexpected events. We have so much wonderful information that we can that local government state governments can use to to prepare for some of the worst effects. Obviously bad things are still going to happen, but we have to listen to climate scientists. Unfortunately, for the last four years, especially um, you know the trump administration undid a bunch of regulations that we already had in place, saying that we had to prepare infrastructure and power infrastructure for climate change. Then he undid all those requirements. And so, when you see something like this happen, obviously texas grid is unprepared for climate change. It’S, not the only thing that’s unprepared for climate change, and how do you prepare for climate change? You listen to climate scientists, yes, and we have a government now, a federal government that is uh that is interested in listening to climate scientists, unlike the one that came before, we can only hope, uh that will um inspire some change at the top of government.
At least uh, do you think people in texas, republicans in texas will change their minds at all about the role of deregulation or climate science or the role of big government after this latest crisis or not? Well, my job as a reporter is to look at the evidence, and i have seen no evidence to tell me that anyone would change their mind on anything of this nature. Uh it’s been seven long years of covering republican climate denial, and i have looked for every single benefit of the doubt to tell me that sometime it’s going to stop being a bad faith lying effort, and nothing has nothing – has indicated that to me. I would love to see some evidence um and as soon as that evidence really comes out, um happy to but uh, nothing so far. So on that depressing note, climate reporter emily atkin. Thank you so much for your time tonight and your insights appreciate it. Hi i’m. Mehdi hussain, thanks for checking out our channel on youtube, you can see more of the mehdi hassan show by clicking on any of the videos on this screen and make sure you subscribe below to stay up to date on the day’s biggest stories.