By David Klepper
Climate scientists have warned for years that a warming planet would cause more extreme storms, like the one that walloped Texas in February, knocking out power and leaving millions in a deep freeze.
Yet as the snow fell and the wind howled, some looked for other explanations for the storm and its resulting power outages. The conservative website The Gateway Pundit made the false claim that President Joe Biden’s energy policies somehow prevented Texas plants from generating the power the state needed and “led to Texans literally freezing to death.”
The next day, the conspiracy theory website Infowars published a similarly untrue story that was shared 70,000 times on Facebook and Twitter. Four days later, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado, tweeted to her 100,000 followers that Biden’s energy policies were “leaving millions of Texans freezing to death.”
All those claims were false. In fact, an emergency request granted by the Biden administration gave the state authority to exceed federal environmental limits in order to provide enough power to Texans.
Surveys also show that extreme weather is changing people’s thinking about climate change. According to a 2019 poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, nearly 75% of Americans said their opinions about climate change have been influenced by extreme weather in the previous five years.
With about 7 in 10 Americans saying they believe climate change is happening, misinformation has now shifted from denialism to focus on its real world impacts. In some ways, that’s a positive, as it demonstrates increased public understanding of the problem. But it also creates new opportunities for those who would spread bogus claims.