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Texas Governor Greg Abbott. (Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott. (Photo by Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

Gov. Abbott: Millions of People in My State Without Power? Damn Liberal Climate Agenda!

It’s far from surprising that Texas leaders are using a crisis to do some PR against real action on climate change. It’s strategy #1 in the GOP playbook for dealing with the existential crisis facing our nation.

Carolyn Clendenin

This week, millions of Texans lost power when a monstrous, unprecedented winter storm slammed the state. Multiple people have died due to the freezing cold temperatures.

Of course, state officials jumped into action to help—by conducting a press tour slamming the liberal climate agenda. That’s right, Gov. Abbott went on Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week to blame freezing wind turbines for the blackout and to slam the Green New Deal. He said, "This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal” for the country, and that fossil fuels are necessary to “make sure we'll be able to heat our homes in the winter time and cool our homes in the summer time."

Never mind, of course, that the storm itself is clear proof of our nation’s changing climate and the many extreme weather events that lie ahead. Or that Texas’ energy supply depends overwhelmingly on oil and natural gas and only 10 percent on wind and solar. Or that Texas’ gas pipelines froze up in the freezing temperatures, preventing them from providing energy.

It’s far from surprising that Texas leaders are using a crisis to do some PR against real action on climate change. It’s strategy #1 in the GOP playbook for dealing with the existential crisis facing our nation. And it may pay off politically in the short-term, but it'll doom our country and our planet.

The “ignore and deflect” strategy is used time and time again. Consider, for example, when wildfires raged in California last year, killing dozens and forcing thousands from their homes. Then-president Trump refused to say a word linking the fires to climate change. Instead, he lumped the blame entirely on forest mismanagement.

Or take the “bomb cyclone” that hit the East Coast in 2018, cutting power supplies and killing many. The Trump administration took the opportunity to push the government to edit a report on the event to highlight the value of coal-fired power plants. 

And in a grand irony, conservative states want money to prepare for climate change-related events, but without using the term “climate change.” That was the finding of a New York Times analysis released last year, which revealed Southern states that were applying for funding to prepare for expected future natural disasters overwhelmingly refused to use “climate change” to explain their requests for funds.

To be sure, elected officials ignoring climate change and spreading misinformation will help convince Americans that the issue is not a top concern. But it will do nothing to change the facts: Failing to take action on climate change will destroy our nation.

Climate change is already upending how we live—and will continue to worsen. Farmers in the Midwest are struggling to grow crops due to unpredictable weather patterns and massive floods. Thunderstorms and hurricanes are growing more intense. Every single one of the 10 hottest years on record in the United States have occurred since 1998.

The National Climate Assessment, published in 2018, revealed that Americans will face massive economic decline, water insecurity, sharply diminished agricultural productivity, new exposure to dangerous diseases, stronger storms, and many more negative repercussions if climate change continues. And importantly, conservative-leaning states—where people are less likely to believe in climate change—will experience the most significant economic damages, according to another study. Many of these areas, for example, will grapple with huge income losses due to climate change.

But acknowledging the reality of climate change will supercharge our economy and create new jobs. Thanks to a solar and wind boom, more than 3.3 million Americans now work in clean energy, according to a report by E2. And plenty of research shows investing further in new renewables will boost U.S. GDP, create more jobs, and increase household income.

Republicans’ disinformation strategy on climate change may pay off for now. But it won’t last.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Carolyn Clendenin

Carolyn Clendenin is a Senior Associate at The Raben Group, a progressive consulting firm in Washington, D.C. 

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