Wildlife Hammered by Texas Cold Wave

March 13, 2021

Still forensics to be done as to the culpability of climate in the recent polar vortex that famously battered Texas, but by all accounts, the cold snap was the coldest, longest, and most widespread in memory.
Wind turbines were falsely blamed for the collapse of the Texas grid, but subsequent reporting showed that it overwhelmingly the “reliable baseload” part of the Texas grid that collapses in the frigid weather.

Similarly, wind turbines are often critiqued for impacts on birds and bats, and indeed, there are impacts, but the experts at the Audubon Society and elsewhere overwhelmingly agree, that the threat of climate change, and in particular, the unpredictable extremes that come with it, is a far greater threat.


Extreme weather appears to be disrupting the life cycle of Europe’s bats.

Scientists were alarmed to find that some bats in Portugal skipped winter hibernation altogether this year while others gave birth early. 

The findings add to growing fears that rising temperatures are having unpredictable effects on bats, birds and other wildlife.

Bats born early in the year may suffer due to lack of insect food. 

“It’s a phenological mismatch,” said Dr Hugo Rebelo of the University of Porto, who is studying the impact of climate change on several Mediterranean bat species. 

“What this means is that the bat birth is more or less synchronised with the time of emergence of insects so that when bats give birth there are plenty of resources to feed on and then to feed their own pups. 

“With these chaotic weather patterns we are having now in winter and spring we don’t know if everything is being mixed up. “

Rare bat species have been routinely monitored in Portugal at their underground roosts since the 1980s.

In order to survive the winter months, bats must hibernate as there are not enough insects flying around in the winter to meet their energy demands.

Dr Luísa Rodrigues, a biologist at The Institute of Conservation of Nature and Forests in Lisbon, said that for the first time in Portugal they found bats that had been born very early.

“In January and February I visited 20 caves and mines and this happened only in one of them,” she said. 

“It was a rare situation and even in the colony where we found this there were 500 bats and we found only two babies.”

These are only isolated cases, she said, but a sign that we need to keep monitoring the situation.

“It’s not a red alert but it’s something that we need to be conscious of,” she added.

The researchers are concerned that mild weather in the south of Portugal is interfering with bat hibernation. They do not know if this will have negative impacts on bat populations.

If the bats emerge from hibernation too early, they struggle to find insect food for themselves and their young, particularly if there is a period of spring rain. 

This can lead to malnutrition and “huge mortality events”.

“We are completely in the dark,” said Dr Rebelo. “We don’t know if the loss of hibernation will be beneficial and bats will be overweight and more fit to reproduce or on the other hand they are having early births and they are not adapted to the spring rains.”

He said bat roosts have increased in temperature by as much as six to eight degrees in past decades.

11 Responses to “Wildlife Hammered by Texas Cold Wave”

  1. doldrom Says:

    Have seen this graph before.

    Clearly, the birds-killing-turbines is as transparently a specious bad-faith argument as to put those who make it on full public display. Worse than the excuses of a 5 year old caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

  2. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Catastrophic Global Warming will cause deaths, up to and including multiple extinctions, at a rate that makes turbine deaths an absolute triviality. Just saying.

  3. John Oneill Says:

    Stalin was supposed to have said that ‘ One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic ‘ – and he was just the man to know about it. With wildlife, it’s the opposite – if a species is breeding well enough to cover the losses, a few more deaths are regrettable, but not a show stopper. With very rare and endangered species, though, even just a couple of deaths could set back years of conservation work. The Californian condor is the prime example – now that a few have started returning to the wild, the state’s wind industry is very worried that they may start straying into turbine territory, to the point of installing an early warning radar system. Another case is the whooping crane, which in the past was down to only a score. Their migratory route runs right up through the high plains states from Texas to Canada, straight through the wind belt where renewables boosters are proposing to harness maybe a quarter of the US’s total energy – far more than the ~7% of just electricity today, and even more if overbuilding is used to reduce the need for storage. The cranes are notoriously blind to obstacles like power lines and fences.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It seems much more work has been done to minimize bird and bat deaths from wind turbines (per kilowatt hour) than has been done to minimize them from fossil fuels. Even discounting the poor air quality resulting from combustion of fossil fuels, the denuding of development land and the spills on good land (and in water) have pretty much been baked into our expectation of risk.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      So your answer is to ignore the more than 99.9% of bird deaths caused by chemical industrial agriculture, sprawl, (both of which are the largest killers of birds by far but never quite make it into the bar charts), plus other toxicity, plastics, cars, climate catastrophe, etc. leading (as in these 2 cases) to near-extinction, and concentrate only on the last 0.0004% of deaths caused by something you happen not to like. The conservatives are notoriously blind to obstacles like facts and reality.

  4. Housecats killing birds are not a problem! At 1:06:00 in, Michael Shellenberger says:

    The wind industry says, oh housecats kill more birds. Housecats kill robins and sparrows and starlings and jays and good riddance to those crappy little birds by the way. … I’m a birder. I love birds. Birders aren’t like, “OMG honey, I saw a jay today. I saw a robin today”. Nobody brags about that because those birds aren’t special, they’re not endangered, they’re not large. … These big bird are special because they’re rare.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Every time I read or hear anything Schellenberger says I become even more convinced he’s a complete aßhole. And the same goes for those who spread the shi† this aßhole drops.

      One study showed coal killed 17 times more birds per KWh than wind at the time; twice that if the effects of climate catastrophe were included. That was a while ago, when the mistakes of early wind sites like Altamont Pass were included and a much higher proportion of turbines. That one farm was responsible for 40% of US wind bird kills at the time, because it was poorly sited with poorly designed turbines. The immense changes since then in design, siting and operation as well as further expansion of wind as a source, have probably reduced wind bird kills per KWh by something on the order of 90% or more. Meanwhile, coal, gas, oil, and nuke damage continue to increase.

Leave a Reply to J4Zonian Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: