What the 2021 Texas freeze and power outage taught us is that climate change in Texas is imminent, and our power systems are not equipped for it. To survive in the years ahead, Texas will need to adapt to changes in the climate. The first step is understanding how climate change is likely to impact our state and what we can do to prepare for it.
Signs of Climate Change in Texas
Climate change is already impacting Texas and the Southwest region with rising temperatures, drought, and more frequent extreme weather events. In Texas alone, average summer temperatures have risen by 1.8°F since 1970, while average winter temperatures increased by 2°F over that same period.
Some distinct signs of these changes include:
- Rising Temperatures: Texas is one of the fastest-warming states in the United States, with temperatures projected to increase even faster in the years ahead. This could mean more frequent and prolonged heat waves, increasing the risk of health-related issues.
- Drought: The Southwest region is one of the most arid areas in the country, and climate change is expected to exacerbate drought conditions. This could lead to decreased crop yields, shortages of water for drinking and irrigation, and a higher risk of wildfires.
- Colder Winters: As temperatures rise, winters are becoming colder and wetter. This can lead to an increased risk of cold-related illnesses, power outages, and economic disruption.
- Extreme Weather Events: Climate change increases the likelihood of extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. These events can cause property damage, disrupt transportation and communication networks, and lead to economic losses.
- Rising Sea Levels at the Gulf Coast: Rising sea levels at the Gulf Coast pose a significant threat to coastal cities, with an estimated 11 million Texans living in vulnerable areas.
Figure 2: Texas Drought Monitor, May 2022
These changes can create a variety of risks to public health, agriculture, and the economy. The most important thing Texans must do is become aware of the dangers posed by climate change and become educated on ways they can prepare and protect themselves.
Potential risks that locals need to prepare for can include:
- Heat-Related Illnesses: With rising temperatures, heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, exhaustion, and dehydration become more common. You can protect yourself by staying hydrated and avoiding excessive outdoor activity when temperatures are high.
- Infrastructure Damage: Extreme weather events can cause damage to infrastructure, including roads and bridges.
- Water Shortages: Climate change will increase the risk of drought, which can lead to water shortages in some areas of the state.
- Wildfires: Warmer temperatures and longer droughts can increase the risk of wildfires, which can threaten homes and cause air pollution.
The Importance of proper HVAC maintenance
Proper maintenance of HVAC systems is critical to preparing for extreme weather events. If your heating or cooling system isn’t working properly, it’s crucial to get it repaired immediately. Waiting can lead to major problems that can be expensive and dangerous in the event of a power outage. To ensure your HVAC system is ready for potential extreme weather events, it’s essential to routinely clean or replace filters, check the condensate drain lines, and inspect the unit for loose connections. Having a certified HVAC technician perform regular checks and repairs will ensure these systems are functioning properly and ready to handle the added strain from extreme temperatures. Some HVAC systems may even need to be updated to better handle the changing climate.
Adapting to Climate Change in Texas
Texas needs to take action now to prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change. Here are a few ways Texans can begin adapting:
- Properly maintain your HVAC system: Regular maintenance can help ensure systems are ready for extreme weather events.
- Reduce Energy Consumption: Reducing overall energy consumption is essential for preparing for climate extremes. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal can help reduce carbon emissions and increase resiliency during extreme weather events.
- Infrastructure Upgrades: Investing in infrastructure upgrades such as flood barriers and improved water storage capacity can help mitigate potential damage from extreme weather events.
- Improve Water Management Practices: Texas needs to invest in water conservation efforts in order to prepare for droughts and water shortages.
- Develop Green Spaces: Planting trees, creating green spaces, and restoring wetlands can help reduce the impact of extreme weather events.
- Educate the Public: Increasing public awareness of climate change can help Texans become better prepared for its impacts.
Texas can ensure a more resilient and sustainable future by taking steps to adapt to climate change.
Ways You Can Help Protect the Environment
Protecting the environment is the best way to prevent further climate change. Ways you can help protect the environment every day include:
- Reduce Daily Energy Consumption: Turn off lights when you don’t need them, use energy-efficient appliances, and switch to renewable energy sources.
- Conserve Water: Take shorter showers, fix leaking faucets, and do not use more water than necessary.
- Recycle and Reuse: Recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum whenever possible. You can also use reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and other items to help reduce daily waste.
- Reduce Air Pollution: Carpool or take public transportation when possible and avoid using products that contain harmful chemicals.
- Support Sustainable Agriculture: Buy locally-grown food whenever possible and support farmers who use sustainable practices.
Protecting the environment is essential for ensuring a healthy future for all Texans. Taking small steps to reduce your environmental impact can go a long way in protecting the environment and ultimately helping mitigate climate change’s effects.
What the Future Holds
By taking action now, Texans can help create a future where the state is better prepared for the inevitable impacts of climate change. Investing in infrastructure upgrades, reducing energy consumption, and adequately maintaining HVAC systems are key steps for preparing for extreme weather events. By increasing public awareness of the impacts of climate change and protecting the environment, Texans can work together to create a more resilient and sustainable future.