Policy: Environment & Energy

White House blames floods, wildfires, power outages on climate change

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White House,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Climate Change,Energy and Environment

Building a case for spending as much as $1 trillion to reinforce the nation's electric grid, the Obama administration on Monday said that climate change is causing floods, storms and even wildfires that threaten the country's electricity.

"It is clear that climate change is impacting the grid," said a top administration official in a media conference call to draw attention to worries that global warming-induced weather could knock out electricity to major portions of the nation. "It's increasing the frequency and intensity of severe weather events and these include heat waves, floods and also wildfires," said the official.

To boost its campaign to fix the grid, the White House released a report blaming severe weather for an estimated 679 power outages between 2003 and 2012. The release on Monday came on the 10th anniversary of one of the worst power outages, the 2003 blackout that hit parts of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Ontario.

The report, "Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages," said that weather-related grid failure costs the nation up to $33 billion a year and up to $75 billion during severe storm years. "These costs are expected to rise as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and other extreme weather events," warned the president's team.

The report blames the bad weather on emitted greenhouse gasses. "The increased incidence of severe weather represents one of the most significant threats posed by climate change," he said.

The release was timely: It comes as the nation is getting whipsawed by bad weather some are blaming on climate change, such as the floods in in the Midwest and wildfires in the West. The administration's report warns of more intense hurricanes as the oceans warm. And at the other end of the temperature spectrum, it added, "Winter storms will also become more stronger, more frequent, and costly."

One official said that upgrading the grid to keep power on during a weather attack could cost up to $1 trillion.

The focus on the electric grid comes as others are pushing for a defense against electromagnetic pulse which can result from a solar storm or atmospheric nuclear explosion. The report did not address those concerns.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.

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