AUSTIN, Texas — A new report released Thursday found that climate change is making Texas far more vulnerable to extreme weather events.
The research shows that Texas is going to keep getting hotter, while the severity and frequency of natural disasters are expected to dramatically increase and will have an impact on everything from infrastructure to public health.
“Extreme rainfall getting worse because of higher temperatures and changes in weather patterns, droughts getting worse because of greater evaporation, those all get connected to those temperature changes," said Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas State Climatologist, author of the report, and atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M University.
The new climate report by Texas A&M and the nonprofit Texas 2036 found that the number of 100 degree days in Texas has more than doubled over the last 40 years and could double again by 2036.
Those rising temperatures are expected to have a significant impact on public health and industries like agriculture and construction.
“Workers, and especially employers, are going to need to be more conscious of making sure that people that have to work outside are protected and safe when they do that. That may lead to fewer hours of being able to work outside and lower productivity as a trade off for having to deal with more 100 degree days," said Nielsen-Gammon.
A big concern is how extreme weather will affect the state’s infrastructure. The research indicates that urban flooding could increase from 30% to 50%.
“For me the biggest changes to worry about are those associated with changes in extreme rainfall because that is going to be a very expensive problem going forward," said Nielsen-Gammon. "We already saw with Hurricane Harvey with over $100 billion of damage. It's already an expensive enough problem that we have to deal with.”
The report also shows that climate change is already having an impact in Texas.
Because of rising sea levels, Texas coastlines are already receding, and the research predicts that the risk of hurricane storm surge along some parts of the gulf coast will be twice as high as they were a hundred years ago.
The report included poll results that show Texans are not optimistic that the state is prepared.
“Only 40% said of the state was well prepared for extreme weather events. A majority, however, 59%, and that's close to 60, said that the state was not well prepared for extreme weather events," said Jeremy Mazur, senior policy advisor with Texas 2036.
The polling shows that Texans want the government to invest in making the state more resilient to natural disasters, including weatherizing the energy grid and funding flood control projects.
"When we're talking about long term projections of global temperatures being three or four degrees Celsius higher as a possibility by the end of the century, in Texas that translates six to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer," said Nielsen-Gammon. "In a sense, the fact that we're only looking up to 2036 sort of underplays the risks of climate change. In fact, what we do for infrastructure between now and 2036 is going to be designed to protect us after 2036, while temperatures are still rising."