AUSTIN, Texas >> Natural disasters in Texas on the scale of Hurricane Harvey’s deadly destruction last year will become more frequent because of a changing climate, warned a new report today ordered by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in a state where skepticism about climate change runs deep.
But the report makes no mention of global warming, and in urging steps Texas should take to blunt the impact from intensifying hurricanes and flooding, there are no recommendations to curb greenhouse gases in a state that leads the U.S. in carbon emissions. The phrase “climate change” also does not appear in the 200-page report, except in footnotes that reference scientific papers.
The report was not commissioned as an assessment of climate change in Texas. Instead, it is the findings of a rebuilding task force Abbott created after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast, killing more than 100 people and causing an estimated $125 billion in damage. The Category 4 hurricane dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, leaving the nation’s fourth-largest city underwater.
But in underscoring the inevitably of future disasters in Texas, the report notes rising sea levels and extreme downpours becoming more frequent in recent decades.
It also cites a “changing climate” while reinforcing the need to strengthen dams and levees.
“Flooding risks for coastal Texas, and much of the rest of the state, will continue to rise. The current scientific consensus points to increasing amounts of intense rainfall coupled with the likelihood of more intense hurricanes,” the report read.
The report was spearheaded by Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who Abbott appointed as a recovery czar after the storm. It urges state and local officials to think in “generational terms” to infrastructure planning so as to “future-proof” the Gulf Coast .
Abbott, who easily won re-election in November, was set to discuss the findings at a news conference later today.
He has been noncommittal in his career about whether he thinks human activity is affecting the climate. Before becoming governor in 2015, Abbott repeatedly sued the federal government over environmental regulations as Texas’ attorney general.
Across the U.S. In the last two years alone, storms and natural disasters have killed scores of people, damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes and cost tens of billions of dollars. As the severity escalates, governors are finding they have to make disaster planning a priority or risk the consequences of inaction defining their terms and enraging voters.
Last month, a White House report warned that these types of disasters are worsening because of global warming and noted that the last few years have smashed U.S. records for damaging weather, costing nearly $400 billion since 2015. That report frequently contradicted President Donald Trump.
Trump and elected Republicans frequently say they can’t tell how much of climate change is caused by humans and how much is natural. Citing numerous studies, the White House report said more than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans. Without greenhouse gases, natural forces — such as changes in energy from the sun — would be slightly cooling Earth.