Winter Snowstorms and Heating Cost Spikes Are on the Way

Headlines like “Heavy snow pummels the East Coast,” and “At least 43 people dead in Mexico as a result of the intense rains and flooding affecting large portions of the country” are becoming increasingly commonplace in the news. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), these changes are associated with the fact that warmer air holds more water vapor evaporating from the world’s oceans and land, an increase observed via satellites that is due primarily to human influence. When we talk about climate change, we are not talking about a year with a harsher-than-usual winter, but rather a pattern of changes that occur over time, which has been happening over the past decade.

With this warmer planet also comes something most of the general public would not expect: more precipitation, which means more rain and snow.

A report by the USGCRP found overall increases in global precipitation averages with substantial changes in the amount, intensity, frequency, and type of precipitation as a result of global warming.

People waiting in line for Fiesta Mart to open after the store lost electricity in Austin, Texas, due to the winter storm. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images.

Who’s to Blame for Higher Heating Costs This Winter?

Marked increases in precipitation have been observed in eastern North America, southern South America, and northern Europe, while other regions, including the southwestern United States and the Mediterranean, are expected to become drier. As winter approaches and retail energy prices remain at multiyear highs, many people are looking at their utility bills with increasing concern. In its most recent Winter Fuels Outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted that U.S. households that rely on natural gas to stay warm (which is nearly half of them) can expect to spend 30 percent more on heating than they did last winter, and as much as 50 percent more if their local temperatures this season are just 10 percent lower than average. Domestic production of natural gas has ramped up accordingly, yet domestic supply has remained lower—and prices have climbed higher—than usual.

Now, nearly two years into the pandemic and still reeling from so much uncertainty, millions of consumers are faced with a new uncertainty: will they be able to afford to keep themselves and their families warm this winter? In low-income communities especially, the prospect of paying as much as 50 percent more for heating over the next few months isn’t a mere annoyance; it’s a serious cause for concern.

Predicting the price of the natural gas that’s used to heat homes during cold weather, much like predicting the weather itself, is a tricky business.

How Can You Keep Warm and Save on Your Energy Bills This Winter?

While visibility in Washington, DC was less than a block, we must make sure that our worldview goes well beyond this winter’s storms and to the heart of the matter: climate change is a reality, and it is happening now. We can take steps today to cut global warming and pollution by controlling greenhouse gases and investing in a clean energy economy, thereby putting US laborers back to work and on a path to energy independence, or we can bury our heads in the snow and wait for the next storm to hit.

We’d be able to stay warm this winter and be that much closer to staving off catastrophic climate change, which would also keep us cozy.

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