Climate change is not a new topic. Global warming has been in the news for more than a decade. While scientists point to climate change as a major cause for shifts in weather like those that put Austin underwater, politicians remain skeptical.
The recent floods in Texas have left 15 people dead and 12 others missing. According to climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, these floods are evidence of what is happening with our planet. “We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas. And it’s consistent with what we would expect from climate change.”
Top environmental regulators in Texas aren’t buying climate change as a contributing factor to the floods. In fact, they are questioning whether the planet is heating up at all. Republicans, in particular, remain skeptical, dismissing Democrats’ attempts to discuss environmental issues during legislative sessions.
In the scientific community, extreme weather events are the most agree-upon effects of climate change. As ocean temperatures rise, more moisture is released into the air, creating strong storm systems. In the last 100 years, Texas has seen a rise in rainfall and other precipitation patterns. Two-day periods of heavy rainfall are twice as likely to occur as they once were.
Two bills have failed in Texas. One would create a global task force to study the effects of climate change on the state, and the second would require Texas to follow the new climate regulations passed by the federal government. Smaller pieces of legislation relating to climate change have also failed.
According to Nielsen-Gammon, the state should be doing more with the information it has. “We have the advantage of having non-zero information about how the climate’s changing, and we’re acting as though the information content is zero,” said Nielsen-Gammon.
No one can know how much rain will fall or when, but incorporating global warming and climate change into long-range plans is essential. California is currently one of the only states with agencies that consider this phenomena when making long-range plans and goals for the health of the state. Texas, thus far, seems to be stuck in place.