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Climate Challenges Call for Cooperation

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It has been a relief recently in Bandera County to have rainfall and cooler temperatures. But, as we know, weather can change quickly in Texas and savoring the good times always carries the remembrance of how transitory the good times can be.

While we enjoy a cooler spell, we have seen record heat in a large portion of the northwestern US. We know about record high temperatures around here, but it is truly a shock to people in that area.

The impacts to natural systems there will unfold with still-to-be-determined consequences such as water levels and animal and plant species health. It is also highly likely that there will be agricultural impacts that we will see at the grocery store. This not to mention the lives that have been lost to such brutal conditions.

One can say we always see bad or unseasonable weather. Can we really tell that there is a major shift involved with our climate? Let’s look briefly at where we are.

Some anomalies to ponder: If we visited the Esperanza Base at the tip of Antarctica on February 6, 2020, we could have enjoyed a 65-degree temperature. That was nine degrees warmer than our high that day in Bandera. On June 20 that year, Verkhoyansk, Siberia, above the Arctic Circle, hit 100.4 degrees. It reached 92 degrees in Bandera that day.

Overall, according to records at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2020 was the second warmest year for our overall planet and THE warmest on record over land areas. Indeed, the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005, with seven of the 10 occurring since 2014.

There continues to be misplaced rumblings about why that is the case. The argument has taken a partisan tone with many Republicans saying that natural variability is at play while Democrats are saying the primary driver is with man-made emissions into the atmosphere, particularly of carbon dioxide and methane. The latter is the accepted scientific consensus.

Carbon dioxide’s blanket effect on the earth can remain within the atmosphere for 300 to 1,000 years. It is sobering to consider that we are now at the level of CO2 that was last present three million years ago when sea levels were over 50 feet higher.

Increasingly severe variability in weather, which is characteristic of a climatic shift, hit us hard in Texas with a brutal winter storm that exposed a problematic energy system within our state. It caused unnecessary loss of life and economic activity. We need prudent political decisions that go after the causes which, in addition to hardening the electrical system to weather stress, involve allowing reserve capacity to be in place through our energy pricing structure.

Currently, electricity producers get paid for only what they produce and not for anything in reserve. This reserve capacity could backup extraordinary high demand situations plus be made available to sell outside of Texas. Physical and operational technologies are becoming available for electrical system reserves that allow clean energy to play a big role. This can mean jobs.

Our options are also increasing for us personally to play a role. Energy backup with batteries at our home and even through electric vehicles are available or coming soon.

There is a lot we can do. Democrats are casting this climatic shift as a job creator, not just a threat. It is foolhardy to consider this matter as a part of a partisan divide.

W Laurence Doxsey, Retired, Former Director of Office of Sustainability for City of San Antonio, former Environmental Officer for US Department of Housing and Urban Development, former Sustainability Officer for City of Austin, resides outside Medina.