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California’s massive power outages show climate change is coming for everyone, even the rich

Climate-driven disasters are reshaping our world. This week, we’ve seen a preview of what’s coming.

In California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) cut off power to 500,000 homes in 20 counties (with more to come). More than 2 million people could ultimately be left in the dark. PG&E is testing a new strategy to avoid last year’s killer wildfires, which left 1.8 million acres scorched and more than 100 dead, after its errant power lines touched off massive infernos, the worst toll in state history.

PG&E, accused of neglecting its infrastructure and the flammable vegetation near its power lines, faces forests left tinder-dry by a series of brutal droughts in the past decade. As the climate dries out the West, wildfires are burning hotter, longer, and bigger than before. Overwhelmed, the utility has decided its only strategy is to stop delivery of its essential service to millions.

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So far, the urban core of Silicon Valley and San Francisco hasn’t been severely affected (the high-voltage power lines serving tech’s corporate campuses aren’t as likely to start fires), but many areas where the tech elite live—such as Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Clara, and Contra Costa counties—are in the dark.


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