Severe Winter Weather and Energy Structures

The United States officially rejoined the Paris climate agreement on Friday, February 19, 2021.  Scientists and foreign diplomats welcomed the U.S. return to the 2015 pact, which is intended to prevent catastrophic climate change.  Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, took part in a special meeting with climate ambassadors worldwide and said that the U.S. will have to work overtime to make up for lost time in advancing climate policy due to the previous administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris pact. President Biden has promised to lead the U.S. to net-zero emissions by 2050, which climate scientists say is in line with what is needed, although they stress that global emissions must drop by half by 2030 to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

Meanwhile, the week before the climate meeting, the United States faced some of the worst and most widespread winter storms in history. The week of winter storms brought ice, snow, and frigid temperatures to an unprecedented and expansive area of the country as hazardous weather stretched from coast to coast.  Multiple states declared emergencies and millions of people across the U.S. found themselves without power and water; hundreds of thousands in Texas still do not have clean drinking water.

Fitting a pattern of worsening extremes that has been observed under climate change, these storms have highlighted areas where local, state and federal officials have failed to prepare for more dangerous weather. The situation in Texas has brought a tremendous amount of attention to power grids, how the federal and state governments regulate energy, and what should be done to better prepare for the continued worsening weather events that climate scientists predict will happen in the future.

Essential Questions:

    • What is the Paris climate agreement, and what role does the United States play in reducing global emissions?
    • How do scientists explain the relationship between weather and climate?
    • What is a power grid, and why does Texas have its own power grid?
    • What role do state and federal governments have in crafting energy policy and legislation?  What types of conflicts arise between them?
    • How can residents impact decisions about their energy sources at local, state and federal levels?
    • What assistance does the federal government provide during states of emergency?



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Audio for the article “Texas grid failure strengthens calls to climate-proof energy infrastructure” (4:37 minutes)


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