This week's East Coast heat wave, which broke the record again today for energy demand in the New York grid and across the central and eastern part of the nation, comes as the superheated Gulf prepares for another hurricane next week. Fortunately, through proactive conservation measures,New York and other big cities have so far escaped the 100-degree event without a major catastrophe.
The Gulf is far less likely to be spared from damage from tropical storms such as Chris, whether it is the oil and gas infrastructure that gets hit (I'd put major damage at 50 percent-plus likelihood this season), or major cities such as New Orleans or Houston. Miami, ranked as the number one most vulnerable city to natural disaster by SustainLane, could also get impacted if Chris takes a more northerly course, in which case New Orleans and Houston would still be at risk. Any combination would translate into higher prices for oil, gasoline and natural gas. Record demand for electricity for air conditioners is also boosting natural gas and electricity costs.
Our current events so readily illustrate that energy is becoming our nation's main global climate change issue not only in how our consumption contributes to global climate change, but also its distribution, use and pricing is affected by this change.
On a related note, former President Clinton announced yesterday that five US cities (LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York) will be joining 17 other major world cities, who are banding together to reduce their carbon emissions in what is being called the Clinton Climate Initiative. The cities will be also sharing technology and best practices in areas like alternative fuel development and city planning in order to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate global climate change impacts.
In a novel turn of events, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Monday a knowledge-sharing pact to combat global climate change. The two government heads said they would work with major companies to develop a carbon cap-and-trading system. Attendees at the LA-area announcement included the co-founder of Google, Rupert Murdoch's son James Murdoch, and Richard Branson. Some speculated Blair was looking to secure an afterlife in business, or a "Lord on the Board" position, as my British expat friend Chris Dean quipped.
Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election in November, asserted in a watershed speech last year in San Francisco that I attended (6/1/05): "...the debate is over. We know the science, we see the threat, and we know the time for action is now."
Not a moment too soon. Now time to put some flesh on the bones before they get bleached in the sun.