Ed’s note: climate change – is the house on fire?


Drought, polar vortices, storms of unprecedented ferocity, flooding – you name it and in one part or another of the globe, it would appear that weather of an extreme nature is battering the planet. Whether you subscribe to the concept of climate change or not, the fact that weather appears to be more volatile than ever before is without question. 

In Cape Town, in 2017/18, drought brought the City to its knees as water reserves dropped to levels where ‘Day Zero’ was being discussed as a reasonable and foreseeable consequence.  In Chicago on the other hand, the City experienced temperatures similar to those in the poles and temperatures dropped well below -23 degrees centigrade at their lowest.

Enter Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, who has challenged global leaders to change their policies around global warming and climate change.  Thunberg first drew attention when she protested outside the Swedish Parliament in 2018, bearing the sign Skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for the climate). She was protesting Sweden’s climate change response after a summer of heatwaves and wildfires swept the country. What I find particularly appealing about Thunberg is her straight-shooting style – something that is lacking in global politics.  

Addressing global leaders at Davos earlier this year, Thunberg told them: 
“You say nothing in life is black or white. But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie. Either we prevent 1.5C of warming or we don’t. Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control or we don’t. Either we choose to go on as a civilisation or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival…

Thunberg continued: “And since the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, people are simply not aware of the full consequences on our everyday life. People are not aware that there is such a thing as a carbon budget, and just how incredibly small that remaining carbon budget is. That needs to change today…

“Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.

“And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

Thunberg’s words must have resonated with utilities around the world as they continue to fight the realities of climate change and plan to mitigate against the consequences of changing weather patterns.  Florida Power & Light have spent years, and millions of dollars, strengthening their grid to withstand the ravages of the tropical storms that regularly batter the Florida coast. In Chicago, ComEd has had the resilience of the grid against the cold tested, while California has seen what happens when climate change and vegetation management clash.  In Cape Town, disaster was averted but the city – and national government- have been under constant fire for mismanaging and misjudging the extend to the water problem. Countries such as Kenya and Uganda are being affected by changing hydrology and lower generation output from hydropower stations.

The Washington Post recently reported that the bankruptcy of PG&E is very closely linked to climate change. In its article ‘Pacific Gas and Electric is a company that was just bankrupted by climate change. It won’t be the last’ the author puts forward the theory that: “PG&E’s bankruptcy is a symptom of a more general problem: Corporations haven’t priced in the consequences of global warming. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that corporate expectations for current and future spending on the management of physical risks from climate change are off by two orders of magnitude. Companies and investors are still drastically underestimating the risk that climate change poses to both their infrastructure and their underlying assumptions about economic prosperity.”

“Indeed, PG&E arguably paid more attention to climate change than most US companies. PG&E has done perhaps more than any other US utility company to decarbonise its energy supply.”

My questions to our readers today are therefore:

  1. What effects are you seeing on your day-to-day business that you believe can be attributed to climate change?
  2. What are you doing to mitigate against it?

I’d love to hear from you. Share your stories, comments and challenges to this ed’s note by contacting me at claire.volkwyn@spintelligent.com  or  editorial@smart-energy.com

Until next week!