The arrival of a polar vortex this week in North America sent temperatures dropping across the United States.

Many Americans experienced below-freezing temperatures, with 73% of the country covered in snow. As far south as Galveston, Texas, experienced snowfall, making for an amusing site on beaches.

However, the extreme weather was not amusing for most of the country, leaving 150 million Americans without power and over 20 people dead as a direct result of the freezing temperatures and snow.

While many northern states were prepared for such freezing weather, southern states were left scrambling to provide power in order for residents to warm their homes. The state of Texas was especially hit hard, leading to a Texas-size power grid failure.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Ed Hirs, an energy fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Houston, blamed the failures on the state’s deregulated power system.

While climate change denying politicians wanted to point to freezing wind turbines and green energy, the true reasons rest with Texas legislators’ decision to deregulate power companies.

Companies’ unwillingness to invest in upgraded systems, along with a failure to winterize power facilities sufficiently, were exposed when extreme winter weather hit the “Lone Star State.”

While every Texan was affected in some way by the deadly winter weather, minority and lower-income communities were hit especially hard.

Predominantly white suburbs had the resources to light a fire in a fireplace or start up a generator, but many lower-income communities cannot afford such amenities. Therefore, when the rolling blackouts were initiated, lower-income families were left to freeze inside homes because the roads were too hazardous to travel.

More than any weather system in recent memory, the polar vortex of 2021 provided evidence concerning the cold reality of climate change.

Climate change results in extreme warm and cold weather patterns. While weather has always provided devastating catastrophes, extreme weather is becoming more common as the planet warms.

Bill Gates believes the world has approximately 30 years to make much-needed changes to combat climate change before irreversible consequences arrive.

In his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, he says humans possess the ingenuity and resources to bring carbon emissions to zero before it’s too late.

Gates acknowledges we need more energy to provide heat and electricity for homes, but we need to generate it responsibly. He writes, “The world needs to provide more energy so the poorest can thrive, but we need to provide that energy without releasing any more greenhouse gases.”

Unfortunately, the world has fallen behind in its efforts to combat climate change.

When the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement under the Trump Administration, four years of failed leadership by the U.S. hampered the advancement of those goals. With the world facing a 30-year window, four years is a significant amount of time for the leaders of the free world to be sitting on the sidelines.

As people of good faith, we need to encourage our elected leaders to pass significant legislation to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions, and we need to do our part as individuals and families to assist in the effort.

There is another significant detail that Gates mentioned in a recent interview concerning the future of environmental justice. He believes current global leadership, which is much older, needs to harness the enthusiasm, creativity and passion of the emerging generations.

Environmental activists such as Greta Thurnberg can be great assets in combating climate change because they have the most to lose.

Therefore, I want to offer the following important suggestions to help us – as individuals and societies – combat climate change and support environmental justice.

We need to enact personal behaviors that lower carbon emissions by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

We need to reduce our amount of waste by using resources longer and repurposing items.

We need to establish routine recycling practices in our homes and communities.

We need to advocate for local, state and national laws that combat climate change and secure environmental justice.

We need to elect lawmakers who take climate change seriously and advocate for ecological justice.

We need to demonstrate to large private corporations that climate change is a serious business by buying from companies that incorporate best practices in supporting the environment.

More and more we are witnessing the dire effects of climate change. This most recent polar vortex that ushered in freezing temperatures and snow demonstrates the frigid reality we are facing.

We can, and must, do better for our planet. Our very lives, especially the lives of the most vulnerable, and those of future generations depend on what we do today.

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