Throughout the spring and summer of our country’s, heatwaves, droughts, March warming, and wildfires there were precious little mentioning of connecting these events with Climate Change in our local media. They reported on all these extreme events in great detail, except failing to connect them with the prevailing science and numerous climate studies that have long predicted this. Granted this isn’t unusual: Media Turn A Blind Eye To Record Greenland Ice Melt
Overall, there’s been a great reluctance, despite the science on the present extreme (read The New Climate Dice: Public Perception of Climate Change By James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Reto Ruedy — July 2012.) and the fact that the presidential candidates have not been grilled on this critical issue this election year. The GOP denies Climate Change and President Obama is afraid to talk about it even though he launched a major press report in April of this years to address it:
Administration Releases 10-Year Global Change Strategic Plan: The Obama Administration today released a 10-year strategic plan for research related to global change, identifying priorities that will help state and local governments, businesses, and communities prepare for anticipated changes in the global environment, including climate change, in the decades ahead.. (April 27, 2012) United States Global Change Research Program
But finally today our local paper finally gets around to connecting the dots to the threats of extreme weather to our electric grid because of Climate Change.
The power grid: How secure are we? Extreme weather is altering the discussion about reliability of electricity distribution and how we protect it from nature and humans. Extreme weather is putting America’s power grid to the test, with a year-long run of violent storms and record heat battering a system built for fairer skies. Energy officials are acknowledging climate change as a force that has to be reckoned with — even as concern grows over other threats that can set off catastrophic blackouts. (August 26, 2012) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
It may seem unremarkable to many to see “Climate Change” in this context, but believe me it is remarkable. It’s remarkable because of how long it has taken mainstream media in our area to begin connecting the dots on Climate Change. Though City Newspaper has done so and is still doing a series on it: CLIMATE CHANGE: EXTREME FARMING.
So yes, the threats to our electric grid are real, but they have been real and known to our government and power authorities for some time. It’s not really news. Check out this quote from one of the most comprehensive and important climate studies for our New York State Region back in 2011:
Examples of adaptation strategies for the Energy sector described in Chapter 8 include changes in power dispatch rules to de-emphasize the use of vulnerable system assets; establishment of larger incentives to promote energy efficiency in order to reduce energy demand during extreme heat events and associated peak load demands; strategies to promote the more rapid deployment of distributed generation technologies (including solar, on-site combined heat and power technology, etc.) to both reduce demand on the grid and reduce site-specific system vulnerabilities; construction of additional power generation capacity to offset anticipated periodic losses in hydropower availability; changes in flood protection land-use practices to site power generation capacity in areas less vulnerable to flooding or extreme weather events; and requirements that utilities begin upgrading their transmission and distribution systems to prepare for demand growth associated with changing temperature levels around the state. Page 10, Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) funded by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (2011)
The real news, the news that is not being reported, is that there are a litany of consequence or Likely Changes, that are coming to our region—and are anticipate by many Climate Change Studies—but not brought to the public’s attention by the media.
This is why the public doesn’t ‘get it’ on Climate Change, while doubt and denial are so convenient. Our media just doesn’t equate extreme weather unless it gets in their face, as obviously threats to our electric grid have done. Kind of hard to hide the fact that you’re power is down and keeps going down every time a lot of folks turn on their AC’s.
This all matters because we are going to elect a president without having a critical conversation on Climate Change. It matters because there is no way we are going to make expensive changes to our electrical grid without the public understanding the real threat and connecting to Climate Change. And, there are many other scenarios that are going to need public understanding—Climate Change threats to transportation, telecommunications, and public health—that will need long-term and expensive planning. In order for the public to elect the best leaders to address Climate Change and get behind the very expensive measures to adapt to Climate Change, they need their media engaged and continually reminding them of what is at stake.
If our media is going to try and sneak in the connections with Climate Change and threats to our electric grid only when avoiding it is impossible, it will likely be too late to get the public behind the kind of efforts that will be needed. When it gets really hot, everyone will want air conditioning, and our grid will go down because it has not been fortified.
The above report about Climate Change and the threat to our electric grid must be done in every community and on every possible consequence with Climate Change, not just our electric grid. The public has been blinded too long on Climate Change because our media has made that so convenient.