As President Obama said in his speech last month, climate change is happening -- and the effects are already being felt across the country. 2012 was the hottest year on record; the worst drought in generations covered more than half the country; record wildfires swept across western states; and an intensified Superstorm Sandy devastated communities in the East. (See The President's Plan to Fight Climate Change for more information.)
Today’s report U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather examines current and potential future impacts of these climate trends on the U.S. energy sector. Researchers have identified several critical issues, including power-plant disruptions due to drought and the disruption of fuel supplies during severe storms. They’ve also pinpointed potential opportunities that would make our energy infrastructure more resilient to these risks.
The map above shows how the following three extreme climate trends have caused major issues to the energy sector across the country over the past ten years:
- Increasing air and water temperatures;
- Decreasing water availability across regions and seasons; and
- Increasing intensity and frequency of storm events, flooding and sea level rise.
Here are some more details from the report:
- Climate change has created an increased risk of shutdowns at coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants. Why? Changes in the climate mean decreased water availability -- which affects cooling at thermoelectric power plants, a requirement for operation.
- There are also higher risks to energy infrastructure located along the coasts thanks to sea level rise, the increasing intensity of storms, and higher storm surge and flooding.
- Power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems face increasing risks of physical damage from the hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more frequent and intense.
- Air conditioning costs will rise due to increasing temperatures and heat waves, along with the risks of blackouts and brownouts in regions throughout the country.
As climate change makes the weather more extreme, we have a moral obligation to prepare the country for its effects. Look to energy.gov for more about our plans to fight climate change.