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"Snow storm, I-95 south" by VaDOT is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Stop the scapegoating, blame climate change for the Texas storm

A winter storm passed through the United States on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, wreaking havoc on Southern and Midwestern states. While Texas in particular struggled to face this devastating storm — a consequence of the growing global climate crisis — many people from the Northern United States took to Twitter to mock the Lone Star State. In doing so, they have contributed to the ongoing political divides between red and blue voters, making it increasingly difficult to have real conversations about global warming.

The situation Texans have found themselves in is extremely concerning. Having their own power grid and non-weatherized power plant infrastructures left the state especially vulnerable to this freakish winter weather.

A statewide power outage left over 4.5 million people without electricity. Disruptions to over 1,000 public water systems affected over 14 million people. Texans found themselves huddling up in cars for warmth and storing snow they could later boil for drinking water. Dozens of people succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning, while some have even died of hypothermia. 

On Twitter, many users seemed unbothered, and even entertained, by this disaster. 

A user by the name of “21Bearded” wrote, “Texas gets [8 inches] of snow and thousands are dying. We had 2ft and we’re outside building snow men. You’ll live…”. Another user, “jlhaslip” tweeted, “Texas needs to pull up their wool socks, suck it up and skate it off.”

It was not long before things on Twitter turned political, with users blaming Texans for a climate crisis they had barely any control over. 

User “tomleykis” said, “Hi Texas! Thanks for voting for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. God punished you with all this cold and snow. You deserve it!”

Even acclaimed horror writer, Stephen King, took to Twitter to criticize Texans, “Hey, Texas! Keep voting for officials who don’t believe in climate change and supported privatization of the power grid!…” He later deleted the tweet after heavy criticism.

Despite Texas being a red state, and surely containing citizens who voted for leaders advocating and implementing policy that contributes to climate change, this mocking attitude towards a state enduring a crisis and the blaming of citizens struggling to survive is both hypocritical and ignorant, especially for those claiming to be left-leaning and/or Democratic. 

These responses ignore the fact that not everything is as simple as red and blue.

Many non-Southerners have a preconceived notion of Texans: An image of the white, Trump-supporting hillbilly who thinks climate change is a conspiracy. This image ignores the economic and social factors that play into voting in rural communities, such as poor education and poverty, and promotes the increasingly harmful political divides that threaten our progress on global warming.

Furthermore, this image fails in representing the entirety of Texas and all the people who live there. Red states, especially Southern, have notably been subject to voter suppression and underrepresentation. If we recall this past election season, Georgia turned blue for the first time in years thanks to the grassroots efforts of Stacey Abrams and the Fair Fight Action organization, which she founded to combat these issues.

Democrats do in fact reside in red states, just as Republicans reside in blue states. In fact, some of the Texas areas hit hardest by the storm voted blue in the 2020 election, including Houston, Austin and San Antonio. 

The storm has become a stage for political battles, but at its core it is a climate change issue and the seriousness of this problem is what Americans, whether they vote red or blue, must take away from the crisis.

Global warming is a very real issue and its effects will soon be in all of our backyards, not just those in Texas. It is hypocritical of liberals and leftists to taunt Texas as they endure this state of chaos rather than to support them. We cannot expect to have conversations and reach consensuses if we are busy assuming a whole state’s worth of people are deserving of pain and suffering. 

Ultimately, Texans are not to blame for the crisis, even if some of them voted for leaders who pushed into effect laws that fought against climate progress. To mock citizens who are enduring a crisis in order to push a political agenda only exacerbates the issue, and undermines the very problem that needs addressing. To bring all Americans on board to fight this issue, we need unity between red and blue. 

As Greta Thunberg said to the U.S. Congress in 2019, “No matter how political the background to this crisis may be, we must not allow this to continue to be a partisan political question. The climate and ecological crisis are beyond party politics.” 

Written by Opinions Columnist Gabriella Salas.