Deadly heat and Russia’s war in Ukraine are packing a brutal double punch, upending the global energy market and forcing some of the world’s largest economies into a desperate scramble to secure electricity for their citizens.
This week, Europe found itself in a nasty feedback loop as record temperatures sent electricity demand soaring but also forced sharp cuts in power from nuclear plants in the region because the extreme heat made it difficult to cool the reactors.
France on Tuesday detailed its plan to renationalize its electricity utility, EDF, to shore up the nation’s energy independence by refreshing its fleet of aging nuclear plants. Russia, which for decades has provided much of Europe’s natural gas, kept Europe guessing as to whether it will resume gas flows later this week through a key pipeline. Germany pushed the European Union to greenlight cheap loans for new gas projects, potentially prolonging its reliance on the fossil fuel for decades longer.
Europe is not alone in feeling the effects of energy turmoil on a hotter planet. China ordered factories to cut back electricity use as extreme temperatures melted roofs, cracked roads and drove people into underground air-raid shelters. India struggled to find coal for its power plants earlier this year during an unusually early and prolonged heat wave fueled by climate change.
The cascading effects of the war and the coronavirus pandemic on energy and food prices have punished the world’s poorest citizens the most. In Africa, 25 million more people were living without electricity now, compared with before the pandemic, the International Energy Agency estimated. [Continue reading…]
The evidence that a climate crisis is well underway appears to be everywhere: the Great Salt Lake in Utah drying up, severe weather regularly imperiling the electric grid in Texas, wildfires scorching the drought-plagued West, “climate refugees” seeking higher land in Louisiana and tidal floods swamping the streets of Miami.
Still, just 1 percent of voters in a recent New York Times/Siena College poll named climate change as the most important issue facing the country, far behind worries about inflation and the economy. Even among voters under 30, the group thought to be most energized by the issue, that figure was 3 percent.
“This challenge is not as invisible as it used to be, but for most people, even those who live in greater Miami, this isn’t something they encounter every day, whereas their encounters with a gas pump are extremely depressing,” said Carlos Curbelo, a former Republican House member from South Florida who pressed his party to act on climate change. He added: “In healthier economic times, it’s easier to focus on issues like this. Once people get desperate, all that goes out the window.” [Continue reading…]