Verchick in Slate: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Our Vulnerable Energy Grid

by Brian Gumm | August 29, 2016

It's common knowledge that our energy choices impact the planet's climate, but less widely known is how climate change and its intensified storms, heat waves, droughts, and water shortages affect our energy grid. Already vulnerable, the grid can suffer catastrophic damage when a storm like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy strikes. 

In an Aug. 26 article in Slate, Center for Progressive Reform Board President Rob Verchick explores these vulnerabilities and connects the dots between climate change and the grid. He writes:

From rancid food to emergency-room nightmares, communities take a punch when the lights go out. The nation's aging power grid leaves us very susceptible to such risks. And the growing intensity of floods and storms on account of climate change make things even worse.

We hear a lot about how energy policy will affect climate impacts. Less appreciated, but equally important, are the ways that climate impacts will affect energy policy.

Consider:

  • Extreme weather events juiced up by global warming will knock out power plants and transmission systems across the continent.
     
  • Rising seas and higher tides will swamp some of our most important power plants and substations on the coasts.
     
  • Higher temperatures will slow high-voltage transmission speeds and increase outages related to sagging power lines. (And because more air conditioners will be blowing, electricity demand will jump at the same time.)
     
  • Water shortages and warming rivers will ...

In Advocate Op-Ed, Verchick Explores 'Nonstructural' Adaptation to Climate Change in the Gulf Coast

by Matthew Freeman | April 15, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform President Robert Verchick has an op-ed in The New Orleans Advocate this morning about Gulf Coast efforts to prepare for the effects of climate change that we’re too late to prevent. A New Orleans resident himself, Verchick and his family suffered through Katrina, so he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the Gulf Coast is “staring down the barrel of climate change.” He writes that in addition to large-scale infrastructure projects like fortifying ...

Extreme Weather and Climate Disruption Since Katrina

by David Driesen | August 28, 2015
CPR’s Unnatural Disaster report pointed out that current energy policies favoring fossil fuels made it “more likely that there will be disasters like Katrina in the future.” It explained that global climate disruption increases temperatures thereby causing sea level rise, a big threat to the Gulf Coast, and that climate disruption models suggest a shift toward extreme weather events. Since Katrina, we have certainly seen lots of extreme weather. Perhaps most reminiscent of Katrina, on October 30, 2012, Superstorm Sandy ...

Katrina and the Democratization of Energy

by Joseph Tomain | August 28, 2015
Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina,[1] Superstorm Sandy,[2] and the typhoon that devastated Fukushima,[3] as well as technical weaknesses that caused the Northeast blackout in October 2003,[4] and regulatory failures that ended California electric industry restructuring efforts[5] share two commonalities.  First, they all affect the energy system at enormous costs in economic losses and in disrupted lives.[6] Indeed, severe weather events are the leading source of electricity grid disturbances in the US with 679 widespread power outages between 2003 in 2012. Those outages have been estimated ...

Ten Years After Katrina: Government Can Save Lives and Money

by Sidney Shapiro | August 27, 2015
With the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina upon us, looking back on CPR’s landmark report on the disaster reveals two essential public policy insights. One is that a series of government policy failures resulted in a far worse disaster than would have occurred if government had been more pro-active.  The second is that more effective government requires addressing and resolving what are often difficult policy issues, something that requires an ongoing dialogue and attention to what experts know and do not know about ...

Hurricane Katrina and the Perversity Thesis

by Thomas McGarity | August 26, 2015
In Albert O. Hirschman’s brilliant analysis of conservative responses to progressive social programs entitled The Rhetoric of Reaction, he identifies and critiques three reactionary narratives that conservatives use to critique governmental programs -- the futility thesis; the jeopardy thesis; and the perversity thesis. The futility thesis posits that governmental attempts to cure social ills or to correct alleged market imperfections are doomed to fail because the government cannot possibly identify the problem with sufficient clarity, predict the future with sufficient ...

New Video from CPR: Scholars Reflect on Lessons Learned (and not) from Katrina, 10 Years Later

by Matt Shudtz | August 25, 2015
Recently, six CPR Member Scholars sat down for an hour-long conversation about the lessons that policymakers have—and have not—learned in the years since Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast and stretched our flawed flood-protection infrastructure past its limits. As explained in our groundbreaking report, Unnatural Disaster: The Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, published just weeks after the New Orleans levees broke, the catastrophic consequences of the storm were the product of decades-long failures to protect our most vulnerable neighbors. In the ...

The Corps Gets More Blame for Katrina Flooding

by Matthew Freeman | May 24, 2015
It’s been almost 10 years now since Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on the Gulf Coast, setting in motion a massive failure of New Orleans’s flood-control system. More than 1,800 people lost their lives when Army Corps of Engineers-designed levees around New Orleans failed, allowing water to engulf the city. What followed the levee failures was something not seen in an American city in a very long time. In addition to the huge loss of life, Americans outside the region ...

Katrina Ruling Breaches Sovereign Immunity

by Robert Verchick | May 03, 2015
Almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans-area residents are still trying to hold their government accountable for mistakes that allowed a monstrous flood to devastate their city. Last week, in a case called St. Bernard Parish v. United States, a federal judge helped their cause. In a dispute involving a major navigation channel controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, Judge Susan G. Braden of the United States Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., found that the Corps’ negligence ...

Disaster Planning and Recovery: Verchick Op-Eds in Christian Science Monitor and New Orleans Times-Picayune

by Matthew Freeman | April 29, 2011
Robert R.M. Verchick recently completed a two-year stint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and returned to his work at Loyola University in New Orleans, and, happily, to the rolls of active CPR Member Scholars. While at EPA, he published Facing Catastrophe: Environmental Action for a Post-Katrina World, and just a few days after returning to CPR, he's published two op-eds on disaster preparedness and recovery. In the Christian Science Monitor on April 13, he asked whether Japan's recovery from the ...

Painting by Numbers: A Recipe for Disaster

by Alyson Flournoy | September 03, 2010
Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill offers a chance to learn a lesson that we should have learned five years ago.  Certainly, the two events differ in important ways – the hurricane itself was a force of nature, and the oil well blowout although powered by nature, was clearly the result of human activity. But the hurricane was not just a natural disaster. Its impact resulted from a series of human decisions and actions that exacerbated the hurricane’s ...

Verchick’s ‘Facing Catastrophe’: A Roadmap to a Safer Future

by Daniel Farber | June 11, 2010
Rob Verchick’s new book, “Facing Catastrophe: Environmental Action for a Post-Katrina World,” might help avoid future disasters like the Deepsea Horizon blowout.  Verchick views wetlands, lakes, forests, and rivers as a kind of infrastructure, providing ecosystem services that are just as important as the services provided by other infrastructure, such as roads and dams. For instance, Gulf Coast wetlands provide a buffer against storm surges (protecting not only people but key oil facilities), and nurtures vast numbers of birds and sea ...

White House Roadmap for Gulf Coast Restoration Released

by Shana Campbell Jones | March 05, 2010
Yesterday, the White House released a plan to restore Mississippi and Louisiana wetlands and barrier islands, which have been disappearing at a rapid clip for decades and continue to do so. Hurricane Katrina brought to the fore what many residents of these states already knew: federal, state, and local authorities were neither coordinated nor prepared to protect the Gulf Coast, its ecosystems, and its people from Mother Nature’s worst. (See CPR's report on Katrina). The White House roadmap is designed ...

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