Devastating Impacts of Texas Flooding Underscore the Urgency for Local Climate Leadership

Despite the fact that Texas contributes more to climate change than any other state in our country, legislation calling for climate-change studies, forecasting, or climate-related policies has failed to gain traction in its capital in recent years. Judging from the absence of public hearings and congressional debate on these issues, one might conclude that Texas political and community leaders aren’t worried about the local impacts of climate change. But this week’s devastating floods have underscored the urgency of taking extreme weather seriously, and planning for the impacts of climate change on human life and safety.

While we can all agree that we’ll never have the luxury of a crystal ball to tell us with absolute certainty when, where, and how much rain will fall, this week’s floods — together with the regional impacts of severe and sustained droughts — highlight the importance of incorporating climate change into long-range planning. John Nielsen-Gammon, state climatologist and professor at Texas A&M University, points out that California state agencies are all including climate change within their preparedness and resilence planning, and that Texas has been missing an important opportunity to take care of its own communities. “Hopefully we can learn from California’s experiences.” 

For resources to assist you in leading local community planning and action for climate preparedness, check out Path to Positive Communities.

Climate Change, a Factor in Texas Floods, Largely Ignored

By Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz | The Texas Tribune | May 27, 2015

Climate change is taking a toll on Texas, and the devastating floods that have killed at least 15 people and left 12 others missing across the state are some of the best evidence yet of that phenomenon, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in an interview Wednesday. 

“We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas,” said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. “And it’s consistent with what we would expect from climate change.” 

But the state’s Republican leaders are deeply skeptical of the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, with top environmental regulators in Texas questioning whether the planet is warming at all. And attempts by Democratic lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session to discuss the issue have come up short. 

“In part, it’s ideologically driven and intellectually lazy,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who earlier this year invited national security experts to the state Capitol to testify at a hearing on the risks of climate change.

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