climate, water, texas

texas droughtThose of us concerned about these little words — water, future, living, etc. — were happy to see that the three-day conference, Forecast: Climate Change Impacts on Texas Water, got repeat coverage in the daily journo world of Tejas.

Reports and blogs from dedicated enviro writers at both the Austin and San Antonio papers (I know I’m missing others) shared just enough color and data (some stoic, some silly, some honorable mentionable) for the rest of us to hold our heads informedly and tremble.

Skimming the oft-repeated stats of average temperature spikes and drought textquestionable impact (tho decidedly NOT positive) on surface and groundwater sources, there were a few stinging nettles that caught my eye in this global warming discussion. Like when Statesman writer Asher Price mentions that the conference was only lightly attended by lawmakers — those guys and gals that could actually do something with laws and stuff to shift the rudder.

The conference was led by the River Systems Institute at Texas State University and brought a cadre of strong researchers in to hash over what is known from what should be known and what we should be doing in the meantime.

The need for more regional-focused climate modeling was referenced repeatedly. Of course, we don’t need a gauge sunk into the Guadalupe muck for a decade to know that our rivers and springs are strained and shrinking, that sea level rise will whammy the Texas Coast, or that average temps of 5-6 degrees (or more?) mean serious changes to our day-to-day, should we be fortunate enough to enjoy such into our mutual dodderage as ecosystems collapse around us.

(Oh, and these drought maps. That’s today, not 50-year fearmongering, btw.)

Two things I didn’t see mentioned:

1) That the regional computer model is being prepared already, as far as I can tell, in Austin. It was announced in January of last year and will be funded by about $1.25 mil of NASA change.

AUSTIN, Texas—Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin will use a unique new computer model to study how climate change on the global scale will affect people where they live, on the local scale. The team is building the model with help from a new grant from NASA potentially worth $1.23 million …

Zong-Liang Yang is an associate professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin and the project’s principal investigator. His team will build a computer model that integrates climatic, hydrologic, ecological and atmospheric processes, from the global to the local scale …

Yang and his team will feed the models a wide range of satellite data including rainfall, cloud cover, radiation temperature, aerosols, vegetation cover, albedo and roughness of the surface (which affects wind speed). They will also use satellite measurements of ocean color (which indicate ecological activity of plankton and other microorganisms), temperature and salinity.

The model will run on the supercomputers of the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which are among the fastest in the world.

climate book2) Or any mention of the climate book The Changing Climate of South Texas published recently by a team of scientists (mostly from the Texas A&M system) that makes detailed predictions for the South Texas region, taking on anticipated average temperature spikes, agricultural impacts, etc.

Asher Price at the Statesman today included a few forecasts in his report similar to what is found in Changing Climate, but also narrowed in on the state’s continuing contribution of carbon dioxide exacerbating the global situation:

Producing 652.5 million metric tons in 2004, according to the latest data available, the Lone Star state is the nation’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide, which scientists have linked to global warming.

Texas does not have caps on carbon dioxide emissions, and some lawmakers said they want to wait until the federal government takes action.

“It’s a real mistake creating state-by-state policies with regard to global warming or greenhouse gases,” said state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who chairs the House Environmental Regulation Committee.

Of the 12 bills filed last session that dealt directly with global warming, seven never received a hearing, and only one — which had as its narrow mission the study of water supplies and the Rio Grande — passed …

In a September speech, Gov. Perry criticized former Vice President Al Gore by saying, “I’ve heard Al Gore talk about man-made global warming so much that I’m starting to think that his mouth is the leading source of all that supposedly deadly carbon dioxide.”

John Nielsen-Gammon, the state climatologist, said he has not briefed the governor on climate change and potential consequences for the state.

Though representatives of the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s office dropped by the conference, it was lightly attended by lawmakers.

However, the conference got a jolt from a lunch-time speech Monday from Larry Soward, one of three members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and a Perry appointee.

“As the nation’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and with an extremely vulnerable coastline,” Soward said, “it only seems reasonable and logical to me for us here in Texas to step up, take a leadership role and begin to seriously and meaningfully address our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Tony Caputo at the San Antonio Express-News has filed back-to-back reports in the door stop, but the more interesting material manifests in his blog offering.

Texas is looking at water shortages in the coming decades for a number of reasons, mostly population growth. Climate change, which has yet to be factored into the state’s planning in any meaningful way, is expected to only enhance that problem by increasing evaporation and possibly causing less rainfall.

Kathy Jacobs of the Arizona Water Institute said this will undoubtedly lead the state to explore desalination plants and projects to move major amounts of water from one part of the state to another.

The only problem, she said, is that’s going to take a lot of another commodity that we are finding in shorter supply — energy. It works the other way, too.

“The energy equation is so dependant on water supply,” Jacobs said. “I don’t think there is enough appreciation of how important it is that it takes a lot of water to create a lot of energy and it takes a lot of energy to pump and treat water.”

Gerald North, a noted atmospheric scientist from Texas A&M who is also attending the conference organized by Texas State’s River Systems Institute, agreed.

With many visions of the state’s future including a growing number of rivers not making it to the coast, he said there could be a very concrete impact on power production.

“What will happen to the nuclear reactors we’ve placed on those rivers for cooling?” he asked.

Just food for thought.

Of course, not named but suggested here is the South Texas Nuclear Project’s proposed expansion outside Bay City soon to come before the San Antonio City Council. (Hint: Seems like that’d be a worthwhile follow up.)

I’ll leave you with a few words from Asher’s blog. Pay particular attention to this close from a certain TCEQ Commissioner:

I’ve spent the day over at the Capitol for a conference on climate change and Texas’ waterways.

The interesting question at the Capitol is not how much a changing climate will affect the state, but whether the state government is interested in doing anything about it.

One line of reasoning is that Texas should wait for the federal government to start regulating carbon dioxide. (Why put Texas at a competitive disadvantage? ask people in this camp.) Another line, which I call the “China argument,” says, basically, that since China is building a coal plant per week, Texas shouldn’t bother stepping up to the plate. This is a global problem, goes the argument, and Texas shouldn’t slap business with more regulation.

Well, I heard a pretty good rejoinder to both these arguments by none other than Larry Soward, one of the three commissioners on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and a Rick Perry-appointee. He gave a speech at lunchtime today at the conference.

He said the commission has not acted on its statutory authority to curb greenhouse gases. In a similar vein, 12 pieces of legislation related to global warming were proposed in the last session; only one, a bill calling for a study of Rio Grande water supplies, passed.

“As the nation’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and with an extremely vulnerable coastline,” Soward said, “it only seems reasonable and logical to me for us here in Texas to step up, take a leadership role and begin to seriously and meaningfully address our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Please, if you care about coverage like this, be sure to write both these reporters and thank them for it.

More importantly, write their respective bosses and plead for more. Sometimes the neckties get a little tight in the upper offices and these career officers lose sight of the stories truly cooking on the streets outside the glass

And if you bump in Perry, his absent climatologist, or any of Rep. Bonnen’s kin, give them a solid thwak on the head for me. And if you are so inclined, give them several for yourself, your children, your children’s children down to the Seventh Generation, if you dig what I’m saying.

Consider it a token dose of rehabilitative justice.

Can’t help wonder if Perry hasn’t been hangin’ with our dear friend Peggy, who promised to bring back a more economically rational approach to climate change from a Denier’s conference in NYC.

She’s in good company on the topic. Remember Will as Bush?

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6 responses to “climate, water, texas

  1. ‘ “It’s a real mistake creating state-by-state policies with regard to global warming or greenhouse gases,” said state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who chairs the House Environmental Regulation Committee. ‘

    Of course, if a national policy is created, Bonnen will say that’s a mistake and we should let each state decide. What Bonnen really believes is that there should be no environmental regulations at all. He knows that won’t play well politically, so he has to invent some other reason.

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  2. If you think CO2 is going to influence our water availability, you are incredibly naive.
    Land use and water use policy is far more important than CO2 ever will be. You AGW alarmists are destroying the ability of governments to make rational policy regarding water and land use, and you will have a lot to answer for if your hysteria takes much deeper root.

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  3. this “hysteria” that human industry is affecting the earth’s climate (resulting in decreased snowpack in sierra’s and rocky mountains in u.s. and across africa, asia, and europe) is currently backed by the planet’s overwhelming majority of researchers.

    a few of those in agreement with the IPCC that we are a significant factor in rising temps and all the resulting mess:

    NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)
    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/edu/gwdebate/

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html

    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/index.htm

    National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
    http://books.nap.edu/collections/global_warming/index.html

    State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)
    http://www.socc.ca/permafrost/permafrost_future_e.cfm

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
    http://yosemite.epa.gov/OAR/globalwarming.nsf/content/index.html

    The Royal Society of the UK (RS)
    http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?id=3135

    American Geophysical Union (AGU)
    http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/climatechangeresearch_2003.html

    American Institute of Physics
    http://www.aip.org/gov/policy12.html

    National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
    http://eo.ucar.edu/basics/cc_1.html

    American Meteorological Society (AMS)
    http://www.ametsoc.org/policy/jointacademies.html

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)
    http://www.cmos.ca/climatechangepole.html

    not only are our water’s limited freshwater resources at risk, but (as a side note) recent reports are finding that the ability of wheat to create protein is also being limited by CO2. http://e360.yale.edu/content/digest.msp?id=1306

    i know we’re a bunch of wackos here, but do you trust your department of agriculture? hang on for the drought:
    http://www.usda.gov/oce/global_change/sap_2007_FinalReport.htm

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  4. specifically to water, here in texas we expect to be worse off, as many reports have already driven home (such as the usda, above)…

    here’s the findings from a recent swiss account, basically finding that, yes, there is a lot to understand about climate change’s impact on freshwater, but the impact on glaciers is fairly certain…

    Land-based and mountain glaciers have generally experienced a worldwide retreat and thinning during the last century. Notably, glacier decline has considerably accelerated on a global basis during recent years (Arendt et al. 2002; Dyurgerov 2003). The mean mass balance decrease that took place during the period 1990–99 was three times greater than that of the previous decade (Frauenfelder et al. 2005). Data for this figure are based on measured changes in glacier mass balance made at thirty glaciers located in nine high mountain regions of Asia, Europe and North and South America.

    As a specific country example we can look to China. In 2004, AFP (L’Agence France-Presse) cites renewed concerns of disappearing glaciers being broadcast in Asia, notably in China and Nepal. Yao Tangdong, China’s foremost glaciologist, was quoted in state media as saying, ‘An ecological catastrophe is developing in Tibet because of global warming and that most glaciers in the region could melt away by 2100’. His conclusion was based on the results of a forty-month study by a group of twenty Sino-American scientists which showed separated ice islands that used to be connected with the glaciers at levels above 7,500 m. While Tibet’s glaciers have been receding for the past four decades due to global warming, the rate of decline has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. It was initially thought that the water from the melting glaciers could provide additional water for China’s arid north and west.

    However, this hope has not been realized as much of the glacier runoff evaporates long before it reaches the country’s drought-stricken farmers. ‘The human cost could be immense’ states AFP (2004), as 300 million Chinese live in the country’s arid west and depend on the water flowing from the glaciers for their livelihoods.

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  5. gharman,
    You can ignore the snow pack as it is in favor of the consensus until the cows come home. You can make long, rude, posts against honorable people who are actually involved in the science for actually sticking tot he science and even drive them from office.
    You can think that Hansen’s call for political trials against skeptics is a great start.
    But the climate will continue to ignore all calls for apocalypse and the other calls of the fear mongers.
    The cooling of the last ten years, the increase of worwide pack ice, the lack of change in ocean temps and ocean levels are all meaningless to the true believers in apocalypse.
    But at the end of the day, you fear promoters will have to find a way out of the deep hole you have let yourselves be pushed into by Hansen & co.
    I wish you well.

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  6. so, “hunter,” do you have any published peer-reviewed scientific papers to offer discrediting this notion of human-influenced climate change or do you just want to grouse?

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