As heat waves hit U.S. and Europe, leaders split on climate change – The Washington Post

by | Jul 19, 2022 | Climate Change

Listen10 minComment on this storyCommentGift ArticleAs summer temperatures spiked in Oklahoma — heading toward at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday — the city of Tulsa pondered what to do about its 36-hole municipal golf course. Should it replace the fescue turf with Bermuda grass that’s resistant to heat and drought? The cost of showering it nightly with 1 million gallons of water had gotten pricey, at $5,000 a pop.“There is a point where we may have to start prioritizing tees and greens and fairways and not as much on the rough,” said Randy Heckenkemper, a golf course architect based in the city, in an interview.But for now, officials were lavishing water on the city’s Page Belcher course, as Oklahoma baked in a massive heat wave that is also scorching parts of Texas, Kansas and South Dakota. Residents are cranking up their air conditioners, putting pressure on the power grid, and farmers are using more water at a time when the region could slide into drought.AdvertisementBut across the Atlantic, as the same weather pattern broke centuries-old records in Europe, political leaders seized on the heat wave as a call to action.“This is the consequence of climate change,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a tweet Monday. “Tackling the climate emergency must be at the top of the to-do list for the next Prime Minister.”The sharp policy divergence could have profound implications for the planet, as the world’s biggest historic emitters of greenhouse gases grapple with how to confront their new climate reality. Many European nations are working to shift away from fossil fuels, but the combination of intense summer heat and energy shortages stemming from the war in Ukraine threatens to delay this transition.Visualizing Europe’s heat wave, with melting popsiclesIn the United States, President Biden is struggling to advance his environmental agenda in the face of intense opposition from Republicans and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).AdvertisementThe dueling heat waves are both the result of sprawling zones of high pressure, or heat domes. Underneath these heat domes, the air sinks and clears out cloud cover — while allowing the sun to beat down relentlessly.With temperatures expected to surpass 110 degrees in some U.S. states on Tuesday, nearly 69 million Americans were facing the risk of dangerous heat exposure, and heat-related illnesses are projected to rise from Dallas to Pierre, S.D.“When it’s 110 outside, you’re a prisoner in your home,” said Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University. “Is this the kind of life you want to live?”Despite those concerns, conservatives leading these sweltering red states are reluctant to link these conditions to climate change. And those politicians are less likely to propose a plan to adapt to it.AdvertisementAsked whether she thinks the climate is changing, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) said, “I think the science has been varied on it, and it hasn’t been proven to me that what we’re doing is affecting the climate.”And in Texas, a major fossil fuel producer that has grown 2 degrees hotter than the previous century, climate adaptation is rarely mentioned in a political arena focused on gun rights and abortion.Dessler said his state should immediately draw up plans to adapt, but he doubts that will happen. “The first thing they need to do to adapt is to be able to say the words ‘climate’ and ‘change,’ ” he said.Texas’s approach to adaptation, Dessler said, was summed up by former governor Rick Perry’s call to the public during a time of drought and wildfires in 2011. At the time, Perry said, “I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers … for the healing of our land.”AdvertisementThe demand for power in Texas hit an all-time high Monday, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid for about 26 million customers. The operator asked Texas air quality regulators to relax their enforcement rules for the afternoon and evening so that the state’s fossil fuel plants could pollute more than normally permitted, in an effort to generate enough power to keep the state’s lights on.“They haven’t done forward planning,” said Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston. “With a state growing as fast as Texas, it was just going to be a matter of time before [energy] demand outstripped available supply.”Grid operators in Texas have been pleading with consumers to cut their energy use and calling on utilities to put off maintenance and other down time for their power plants, elevating the risk of system failure as the summer wears on.AdvertisementElsewhere in the Plains, many emphasized that high heat arrives ever …

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