Unaddressed issues in global warming tied to state funds

Matthew Stottlemyre

The Texas Legislature has failed to address climate change issues because, among other reasons, the state’s economy is based on fossil fuels, a UT geology professor said Wednesday.

Jay Banner spoke in the McCombs School of Business about his role in a bill addressing climate change that never made it out of a Texas Senate committee in 2009. The bill would have required 14 state agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Department of Transportation, to file a report every two years addressing the effects of climate change on their operations.

Banner said the Texas Water Development Board, which ensures the state has enough water during droughts, would have been required to prepare for more severe droughts than they currently consider plausible. He said according to computer model projections, which he presented to the Legislature, Texas will shift to a more arid climate that could include longer periods of drought in the near future.

By failing to pass legislation addressing the issue, Banner said the Legislature effectively ignored the projections he presented to them.

During his talk, Banner presented data showing increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere coinciding with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

“One thing no one disagrees with are the accuracy and validity of this data,” Banner said. “There are things where there is a consensus and complete scientific certainty.”

UT law professor David Adelman said the disagreements between lawmakers on climate change are “pretty fundamental.” He said many Texas lawmakers are skeptical about the science of global warming and the effects it will have on the climate.

State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said the legislature as a whole is more interested in capitalizing on economic opportunities than in addressing climate change.

“We are a very carbon-dependent economy not because we are evil but because we produce a lot of the nation’s energy,”
Strama said.

According to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics, Texas is responsible for 16.4 percent of the nation’s energy production, which is more than any other state. Texas also leads the nation in wind energy capacity.

Strama said people who see addressing climate change issues as a threat to traditional sources of income present a threat to climate change legislation in Texas.

“We want to keep our status as the nation’s leader [in energy production],” Strama said. “The question is, ‘How do we lead the evolution to a low-carbon future?’”