A generation ago, many people thought of global warming as something that would happen “someday, somewhere.” As it turns out, “someday” is now, “somewhere” is here and it’s really something.
Torrential downpours and flooding have devastated Texas, costing the lives of more than two dozen Texans and making hundreds more homeless.
It’s been a nightmare, with entire homes lifted off their foundations and carried down powerful rivers, concrete bridges wiped out and panicked phone calls from victims speaking their last words to family members before washing away.
Tragically, this is part of a trend of more extreme weather associated with warming.
Our research has shown extreme rainstorms are happening 29 percent more frequently in Texas since 1948.
Moreover, the biggest storms are getting bigger. The largest annual storms in Texas now produce 10 percent more precipitation, on average, than they did 65 years ago.
Ironically, Texas is emerging from a devastating drought.
The average temperature in Texas has increased 1.7 degrees since the 1970s, and the hotter temps almost certainly made the drought worse.
This combination of extremes is exactly what scientists have been predicting in a warming world.
If we don’t act to ensure that global warming doesn’t spiral out of control, the costs — human and economic — of adaption will simply be too high. According to one analysis, coastal storms in Texas alone could rise to $4 billion in damages annually by mid-century.
We have the tools and resources to solve the climate crisis and rein in global warming-fuelled extreme weather before it gets even worse. And Texans, never known to shy from a challenge, have already started to act.
We’re far and away the nation’s biggest wind energy producer, with more than twice as much as any state.
And with the price of solar dropping dramatically, our state electric grid operator ERCOT predicts solar energy will grow almost 4,000 percent in the next 14 years. The city of Georgetown just signed contracts to abandon fossil fuels and get all of their electricity from wind and solar power.
Now we have an even bigger opportunity: the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan would cut carbon pollution at least 39% percent in Texas and 30 percent nationwide by the end of the next decade.
By giving the states the opportunity to replace dirty coal plants with wind, solar and energy efficiency, it also has the potential to speed the shift to clean power.
The Clean Power Plan is far from a done deal, and it’s not getting any help from Texas leadership.
Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step, and the state Legislature just buried a bill that would simply allow state agencies to plan for future warming.
Gov. Greg Abbott is teaming up with Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to fight the Clean Power Plan. Asked directly by reporters whether the floods were linked to climate change, Cruz refused to answer.
Denying science has big repercussions when our state leaders are involved.
This summer, the EPA will issue a final standard for the Clean Power Plan, and states will have a year to propose their own plans for how to meet the standard.
A Texas plan focused on wind, energy efficiency, and solar power could cut even more pollution more cheaply than a federal plan — which is what we’ll get if the governor fails to act.
In Congress, Cornyn and Cruz have co-sponsored a bill designed to kill EPA’s current proposal and tie the agency’s hands from ever using the Clean Air Act to protect the public from climate change.
Texans are already bearing the brunt of global warming. We deserve leadership — not obstruction — from our elected leaders when it comes to solving it.
Luke Metzger is the director of Environment Texas, a statewide advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces.