Climate Change

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This July is on track to be Earth’s hottest month ever recorded, and that spike in heat is part of a larger warming trend that could change the way governments and researchers measure extreme temperatures.

People across southern Louisiana are spending the weekend worried about flooding. The water is coming from every direction: the Mississippi River is swollen with rain that fell weeks ago farther north, and a storm called Barry is pushing ocean water onshore while it drops more rain from above.

It's a situation driven by climate change, and one that Louisiana has never dealt with, at least in recorded history. And it's raising questions about whether New Orleans and other communities are prepared for such an onslaught.

Wind turbines
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The 2019 legislative session saw fights over renewable energy, climate resilience and pipeline construction. Now that the dust is settling on the field of battle, what do the results tell us about Texas lawmakers' priorities for energy and the environment?

Caroline Covington/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Energy is the invisible driver of nearly everything we do. It gets us to work, lights our homes – it even powers the equipment we use to broadcast Texas Standard. Energy – and access to it – determines the wealth, health and growth of societies. Michael Webber explores how energy has shaped civilization in his new book “Power Trip: The Story Of Energy.

Webber says he became interested in the topic during an undergraduate history class at the University of Texas at Austin.

Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity's burgeoning growth is putting the world's biodiversity at perilous risk.

The Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collection
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

This is a story about 10-million-year-old bones. But it starts in the 1930s.

KUT

From Texas Standard:

A new study shows Texas homeowners along the Gulf Coast have lost tens of millions of dollars of property value over a 12-year period ending in 2017 due to rising sea levels. The hardest hit city has been Galveston, followed by three other cities within 40 miles: Jamaica Beach, Bolivar Peninsula and Surfside Beach.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Wind power in Texas is often seen as one of the state’s great success stories. It’s grown so much in the last 20 years that the state now leads the country in the amount of electricity it generates from wind. Experts say that’s brought the price of electricity down and helped reduce air pollution.

But wind is facing a lot of opposition this year at the Texas Capitol. The fight centers around subsidies and incentives that have helped grow the industry here.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Central Texas residents were confronted this week with two conflicting forecasts for the upcoming wildflower season. But the reports did agree on one thing: Flowers are coming early again.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

If the oil and gas boom continues as projected, the planet could experience "catastrophic climate change" by 2050, according to an analysis released yesterday.

The report from Oil Change International, a coalition of environmental groups, says continued growth in fossil fuel extraction – much of which occurs in Texas – could derail any hope of avoiding dire effects of climate change.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

A somewhat old idea to address climate change is getting new life, now that it appears to have the backing of New York freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She and other progressives are pushing an idea called a "green new deal" – riffing on the title of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan to rescue the U.S. from the Great Depression.

Writing for The New York Times, Thomas Friedman used the phrase "green new deal" as early as 2007, to advocate transitioning to an economy based on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Among the proposals from today's green new dealers is legislation calling for the country to transition to using 100 percent renewable sources of energy over the next 10 years.

The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle argues this isn't a radical plan, and would be a natural one for Texas. Harold Jackson is a member of the board. He says that in addition to abundant oil and gas, Texas also has a lot of capacity to produce solar and wind energy.

Sangita Menon / KUT

Austin has been selected as one of 25 cities to receive up to $2.5 million in funding and support as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge. The contest was established to support mayors and cities working to fight climate change, specifically in the buildings and transportation sectors.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Texas is not a state known for strong environmental protections. The fact is, many green groups head into legislative sessions more concerned about stopping bills that might do harm than supporting bills that might help.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Just this week, C40 renewed the City of Austin's membership for three more years. C40 describes itself as "a network of the world’s megacities committed to addressing climate change."  So, how is Austin doing in reaching its goals to address climate change and manage the impacts that are already here?

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Friday, while millions of Americans recovered at home from Turkey-induced torpors, the Trump administration released a report on climate change that forecasts a grim future for Texas. 

Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News

From Marfa Public Radio:

Senate candidates from Texas, Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, have spent a lot of time discussing their stances on immigration, health care and the economy while on the campaign trail. But the environment is a topic that is seldom discussed.  

That's why Jon Gergen, a retired listener from Plano, asked Texas Decides: "Specifically what policies Mr. Cruz and Mr. O’Rourke are for, or against, to deal with what I perceive most of the scientific community believes is a severe climate problem."

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "could" be considering a departure, Saudis can expect "severe punishment" for any involvement in the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and climate change is probably real, but not caused by man, President Trump said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Texas-based oil giant Exxon Mobil got some good press this week when it announced it was donating $1 million to a campaign to enact a carbon tax in the U.S. But many worry the tax proposal would not slow emissions quickly enough and could harm the environment through its legislative giveaways to the oil and gas industry. 

Some of the world's top climate scientists have concluded that global warming is likely to reach dangerous levels unless new technologies are developed to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says pledges from the world's governments to reduce greenhouse gases, made in Paris in 2015, aren't enough to keep global warming from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial temperatures.

Hurricane Florence is moving relentlessly toward the Southeastern U.S. It's a large, powerful cyclone that will likely bring storm surge and high winds to coastal communities.

But climate scientists say one of the biggest threats posed by Florence is rain.

rhaaga/Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

From Texas Standard

Oil companies have long been blamed for playing a role in climate change. But now, those companies are asking the government to protect their interests from the harsher storms and higher tides connected with global warming.

Companies on the Texas Gulf Coast, which is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, are pushing for a 60-mile stretch of sea walls and levees that would help protect homes, beaches and, yes, oil infrastructure, from the next big storm.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Austin has had 48 triple-digit days so far this year. That puts this summer on track to be the third hottest ever recorded in the city in terms of average temperature. It also continues a trend of warming in the region that became more pronounced around the turn of the century.

NOAA has released the latest State of the Climate report, its annual checkup on our planet.

So, how did Earth fare in 2017?

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere: record highs. Global surface temperature: near-record high. Sea surface temperature: near-record high. Global sea level: highest on record.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

Four large wildfires have broken out in Central Texas in just about a week. It’s part of a bad year for Texas fires, and climate researchers say the uptick in fires bears the fingerprints of climate change.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Human attempts to control the weather go back millennia.

There was fire, of course, for keeping warm when winter's cold takes hold, but taming the sweltering heat of the summer is a much newer pursuit. 

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The oil and gas industry is releasing 60 percent more methane than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, according to a study published in latest edition of Science.

That’s bad news when it comes to global warming.

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

Most discussions about how to solve climate change involve limiting greenhouse gas emissions. But what if there was another way? A new study co-published by a team of researchers at Harvard and a Canadian company called Carbon Engineering says there is one.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Last month was the hottest May ever recorded in the Austin area. If that has you worried about what's in store, you have good reason to be: A vicious circle of self-perpetuating heat descends on Texas in the summer.  

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Student activists around the country are pushing for universities not to invest in industries that contribute to global warming. But at the University of Texas, some environmentalists are taking a different approach, urging UT not to divest, but to adopt more climate-friendly drilling rules.

From Texas Standard.

What can we learn from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria? To answer that question, and to facilitate planning for future storms, seven universities in Florida, Louisiana and Texas are pooling their money to put together what could be a first-of-its-kind center for hurricane research.

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