Ignoring climate change imperils Texas’s future

Gabby Sanchez

Some days this winter have been idyllic to many Austinites, with temperatures in the high 70s and never dropping below 60 degrees. But when we can take a dip in Barton Springs in January, we have to know in the back of our minds that the cause of the uncharacteristic weather is climate change. Last year was the warmest year on record, and it’s only going to get warmer from here.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, the average annual temperature in Texas has been steadily rising since 1975, and this year’s average temperature was one to two degrees above the 20th-century average. Although this may not seem disastrous, Texas has been one of the states most heavily affected by climate change-related weather. Of the 15 climate weather events nationwide that caused over $1 billion dollars of damage last year, seven affected Texas.

Deadly and costly floods like the one in Houston in April 2016 will likely become more common as the Earth’s temperatures continue to rise and the atmosphere absorbs more water, fueling stronger storms. The increased frequency of such severe, flood-inducing storms will cost the state of Texas more money in the future. It makes economic sense to prevent and prepare for the impacts of climate change that will hit Texas hard.

Rising temperatures mean warmer Texas summers, requiring more energy to cool homes. According to Risky Business, a bipartisan coalition consisting of former CEOs, former U.S. Cabinet members and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Texas could see an increase in energy demand of up to 9.2 percent by 2050. In order to meet these demands, more electricity-generating facilities will need to be built, and Texans will end up with higher monthly electricity bills.

Texas has high stakes in the cattle industry, with the highest production of cattle by value in the nation. Extreme heat places stress on animals, hindering their ability to produce milk and meat and contributing to disease. In the coming years, drought will become more widespread and irrigation methods will have to change. The agriculture industry must begin examine new irrigation techniques and prepare for the inevitable changes to come with the support of their representatives.

One Texan has the potential to push the switch to cleaner energy to help minimize carbon emissions. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently testified before the U.S. Senate Energy Committee that he now supports scientific evidence pointing to humans as a cause of climate change and no longer wants to eliminate the department he has been appointed to run. This came as a pleasant surprise in light of Perry’s past statements denying climate change. However, this could fall flat in the face of now-President Donald Trump, who still asserts climate change is a hoax fabricated by China, and Trump’s nominee for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has expressed doubt of humans’ role in climate change.

Whether or not Perry sticks to his word when it comes to climate change policy does not matter if Texas legislators do not make dealing with the changes and mitigating the damage a top priority. Representatives owe it to their constituents to take these threats to their future and livelihood seriously. If Texas does not begin to take steps toward understanding and problem solving, it’s only going to become more warm and more dangerous for people who call Texas home.

Sanchez is a journalism freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @narwhalieee.