The San Antonio Express-News
SAN ANTONIO — It’s unfortunate that discussion about climate change is draped in partisan rhetoric.
Texas could be a leader in addressing climate change. Instead, this great state is a leader in greenhouse gas emissions — at tremendous potential cost.
Great challenges bring great opportunity.
Texas has an opportunity to invest and develop clean technologies and energy policies that could change this country and the world.
Investment that just might spare Texas’ coastlines from rising sea levels. Investment that just might spare Texas’ agriculture from blistering heat and prolonged drought. Investment that could bolster the state’s energy sector long-term.
Unfortunately, we can’t have this discussion in Texas because the very notion of climate change — something that has near universal scientific consensus — is simply dismissed as liberal engineering by many of our leading politicians.
Gov. Rick Perry has repeatedly cast doubt on climate change science.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — and lost.
Abbott’s gubernatorial opponent, Wendy Davis, has underwhelmed us on climate change.
U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, is missing in action on this issue. His denial of climate change is nuanced but his record — his nonrecord — speaks for itself.
After NASA recently launched a spacecraft to study carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, Smith was full of lament.
“I worry that if NASA is asked to collect greenhouse gas data, it will have to sacrifice its core exploration mission,” he said.
We didn’t buy it. We fear that his fear was that even more NASA data on greenhouse gases would solidify the facts — that what makes this cycle of climate change different is man’s contribution to it.
The follies of such political caricature are laid bare in an outstanding report for The Texas Tribune by Neena Satija.
As it turns out, Texas has an abundance of leading scientists on climate change.
These are experts whom our elected leaders ignore.
“I think Texas is quite vulnerable in terms of agriculture and water,” Bruce McCarl, an agricultural economist at Texas A&M University, told Satija. “We’re probably the most affected state.”
Likewise, the state’s climatologist, John Nielsen-Gammon, also of Texas A&M, has predicted the state’s water supply could fall by 15 percent due to global warming.
But no one in state government is interested.
Instead, our political deniers — their sound-bite rhetoric can hardly be called leadership — argue the science is unsettled and the Earth naturally warms and cools.
At this point, 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate change studies are in agreement about human impact on the earth’s climate.
Yes, there are natural climate shifts, but over the last 100 years, the Earth has been heating up at a rate far greater than in the last 11,000 years, research has shown.
Denying plays well in today’s political climate, but at what long-term cost?
We have everything to gain by being a leader in addressing climate change, and so much to lose by embracing denial.