Texas is getting hotter, with climate change expected to drive up average temperatures as extreme weather events become more common. By 2036, we’ll be sweating out average surface temperatures statewide that are three degrees warmer than we saw in the 1950s. In North Texas, it’s already more than a half-degree warmer on average than it was in 1975.
If present trends continue, in the next 15 years we’ll watch the number of recorded 100-degree days double. Overnight temperatures will remain high, so that even years like this one—in which we’ve enjoyed a relatively mild summer of sub-100-degree days—will qualify as some of the hottest on record, increasing incidences of heat stroke and other public health issues. Then there’s all the ways increased heat will stress our power grid and water supply and infrastructure.
That’s according to a new report from the state climatologist’s office at Texas A&M, sponsored by the nonpartisan think tank Texas 2036. Before we get to the good news, let’s rip off the doom-and-gloom Band-Aid and see what else the report considers likely to happen in the next 15 years:
- An increased risk of wildfires due to more severe droughts.
- More extreme rainfall events, with a 30 to 50 percent increase in flooding in urban areas. Why doesn’t that help with the drought conditions? The word “extreme” is sort of the key here—more intense and more frequent bouts of rainfall in some areas don’t mitigate drought conditions overall.
- More species will go extinct because of such dramatic changes to local ecosystems.
Cold comfort here, but the report does conclude that winter storms like the one we saw in February will remain rare. “The frequency of extreme winter weather ought to decrease in Texas because the existence of winter weather is dependent on temperatures being cold enough to support winter weather. As the climate warms, the likelihood of winter weather decreases.”
The actual good news is that we can prepare for and survive a more unforgiving climate.
“Human activities as fundamental to survival as food production and water supply are tailored to the particular combination of weather and climate risks at play in a given location,” the report says. “The future of Texas depends on its resilience to the natural hazards of the future. It is up to Texans, both individually and collectively, to decide what level of resilience is appropriate, and at what cost, compared to the costs of damage and recovery on both an economic and societal level.”
That does mean all of us—you and me and the people we vote for—have to do something.