AUSTIN (Nexstar) — When Wendy Granados heard about how Austin students would participate in a local rally as part of the global climate strike, she says it was a no-brainer to check her son out of school so he could participate.
“It’s only going to get worse if we don’t do our part now and this is all about teaching our children and the future of this world what we can do to make sure that they have a long sustainable life on a long-living planet,” Granados said.
Granados’ son, Christian, is eight-years-old and in the third grade.
“He’s already very adamant about making sure we’re recycling properly, composting properly,” she said. “If something gets put in the wrong place, he’s getting onto us at the house.”
Austin-area high school students helped organize the climate strike on the steps of the Texas State Capitol. Emma Galbraith, a senior at Austin High School, wants legislators to feel pressure to enact policies related to climate change.
“We need the state of Texas to give us a climate emergency plan,” she said. “Texas has a stake in the climate crisis and we need our legislators to start working on a comprehensive plan to attack that.”
During the 86th Legislature, lawmakers passed a package of bills and set aside funding in response to Hurricane Harvey and to prepare for future natural disasters and flooding situations.
Galbraith recognizes that not every sustainable action is accessible to everyone. But she says small steps matter and so do policy changes that could help mitigate future climate events. The recent tropical storm Imelda and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 should be signs that this is a pressing issue.
“It’s not sustainable and it’s hurting the people of Texas,” she said. “It’s killing the people of Texas.”
Planet Texas 2050
Dr. Jay Banner, director of the Environmental Science Institute and professor of geological sciences at the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin says in a way, Texas experiences the worst of both worlds when it comes to climate events.
“With climate change, one of the predictions of climate science is that areas that are prone to extremes in the hydrological cycles, that is droughts and floods, will be prone to even more extremes, so more intense storms and more intense droughts,” he said. “We’ve been seeing that. We’ve been seeing that in the last several years.”
2011 was the worst one-year drought in Texas history, according to experts. In fall of 2018, high levels of debris and dirt from floods led to a boil water notice for Austin Water customers. For six days, residents had to boil water or buy bottled water.
“Not one of these individual climate events on its own is there proof that yes, this is definitely a result of anthropogenic-driven climate change,” he said. “But they’re all consistent with what climate science predicts will occur.”
It’s predicted that Texas’ population will double by the year 2050.
Planet Texas 2050 is a project taking place at UT Austin looking at the impacts of the population and the climate combined.
“They’re really very synergistic — the doubling of population and then the changing of climate,” Banner said. “It’s going to affect a lot of sectors in our society – our water resources, energy resources, food resources and will even have cascading effects on public health and social equity.
The program is conducting research, developing programs and figuring out what policy recommendations will work as the changes happen. Around 80 researchers from more than a dozen universities are involved.
Banner says the goal is to make Texas better prepared and stronger as it continues to respond to big climate events. A key necessity as major disasters take place, he adds, is improved infrastructure.
“A lot of the infrastructure remains to be built,” he said. “The legislature in the last session just passed the bill and provided the funds for doing this, but it will take a while to actually implement that infrastructure.”