fb-pixel Skip to main content

Texas report says ‘changing climate’ intensifying disasters

AUSTIN, Texas — Powerful 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 Thursday ordered by Republican Governor 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 lessen the impact of intensifying hurricanes and flooding, the report makes no mention of curbing greenhouse gases in Texas, the nation’s oil-refining epicenter that leads the United States in carbon emissions.

The phrase ‘‘climate change’’ also does not appear in the nearly 200-page report, except in footnotes that reference scientific papers.

Advertisement



But it is the latest government alarm that massive disasters will only continue. Last month, a White House report warned these types of disasters are worsening because of global warming and, citing numerous studies, said more than 90 percent of the current warming is caused by humans.

After releasing the new Texas report Thursday, Abbott wouldn’t wade into whether he believed manmade global warming is causing the kind of disasters the state is telling residents to get used to.

‘‘I’m not a scientist. Impossible for me to answer that question,’’ he said.

The report was not commissioned as an assessment of climate change in Texas. Instead, it is the findings of a rebuilding task force that Abbott created after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast, causing an estimated $125 billion in damage. At least 68 people directly died from Harvey’s effects, and another 35 people died from indirect effects such as vehicle accidents, according to the report.

The Category 4 hurricane dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, leaving it underwater.

But in underscoring the inevitability 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.

Advertisement



‘‘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 .

Sharp also declined to weigh in on whether humans are causing climate change.

‘‘It looks like something’s changing but I’m not sure I’m a good enough scientist to know what it is,” Sharp said.

John Anderson, a professor of oceanography at Rice University and expert on rising sea levels, said the report continues a trend of denials from Texas leaders.

‘‘The tendency in the state of Texas has been to combat the changing climate without acknowledging the causes of climate change,’’ he said. ‘‘The elephant in the room is getting bigger.’’