The Heat May Force Political Climate Change in Red States

Climate Change Environment

            Marble Falls     Everyone everywhere talks about the weather, but in the current global heatwave it’s topic number one in many places.  The number of reports about heat are rising faster than the numbers on most thermometers.  The eight highest annual temperatures since records have been kept are in the last eight years, for example, and many forecasts indicate there is little relief in sight.

There may be a silver lining in the few clouds many see above them.  The so-called Sunbelt states have been increasingly politically red in one political election cycle after another, and have curiously been the most politically resistant to meeting the challenges posed by climate change.  Now that they are also red-hot, there may be pressure for them to finally take climate change and global warming seriously, if they still want to maintain population and job growth.

Phoenix has had a record 31 days of record heat, mostly above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  Businesses are hurting in Houston because the heat is keeping people inside and starving enterprises of the street and customer traffic they need to survive, and people are talking about moving.  Economists are noting that the heatwave is hurting productivity.  More and more companies, including the big ones, are now listing heat and the climate as “material” conditions that may impact their bottom lines.  Outside workers can’t remain outside in this heat in many places.  Absenteeism increases.  Business patterns are disrupted when more tasks have to wait for temperatures to drop or start earlier before they rise.  Heat is also something that can’t be ignored or attributed to fake news.  Heat is killing more people than fires, floods, and hurricanes, according to scientists.

I’m not saying that red state politicians are going to change their climate policies because people in their states are dying.  I’m not naïve.  Many will just say it’s God’s will, just like the pandemic deaths.  I’m not even saying that declining populations and more exits than entries will be a game changer for some of them, especially those that say a prayer every night for more homogeneity and less diversity in their districts, easing their way to reelection.

On the other hand, when their donors, local businesses, and big employers start clamoring about the climate, and, even more importantly, relocating their new plants and projects outside the Sunbelt, because they can’t take the heat, that’s a message these archconservatives will find harder to ignore.   For many of them, their locations, even their headquarters, in the Sunbelt states are sunk costs, making it harder to move and manage farther afield.  In that case, they are going to insist that their political vassals take climate more seriously and spend the money that needs to be spent to begin to confront the local impacts of global climate change.

We can’t expect such businesses to be leaders in the fight for better climate policies in normal times, but we can predict that when it affects their bottom line, their investment ratings, and their employee count, it will finally compel them to take action on climate and force their political allies to do the same.   For those of us living in the current sweltering heat, we can only hope that they are not too late in joining the rest of us in taking action.