What if Houston gets too hot?

Some cheery thoughts from the Wall Street Journal.

Houstonians pride themselves on how they tolerate heat. This summer, the heat has become intolerable.

Businesses and residents in America’s fourth-largest city have moved much of life indoors, changing work and spending habits. Some residents say they are reminded of quarantining during the pandemic’s early days: ordering in groceries, avoiding social commitments and looking for ways to stay entertained from the couch.

The result is a dent to the local economy that could become an annual pattern if summers stay hotter for longer.

“This year is different, people are staying home,” said Barbara Stewart, a professor of human development and consumer sciences at the University of Houston.


Employees at small- and medium-size businesses in the tourism, arts and entertainment and sports and recreation industries in Texas averaged 19.6 hours on the job a week between mid-June and mid-July, a 20% decline from the average during comparable weeks from 2019 to 2022, according to an analysis from Luke Pardue, an economist at payroll platform Gusto.

If the weather pattern so far this summer continues through August, Texas’ gross state product this year will be reduced by roughly $9.5 billion, making a small dent in the state’s growth rate, according to Ray Perryman, an economist and president at the economic research and analysis firm the Perryman Group. That estimate assumes average temperatures in the state this summer will be roughly 2.6 degrees above the long-term average since 1900, Perryman said.

Samuel Westry, a real-estate agent in the greater Houston area, said some of his clients have been reluctant to attend property showings in person. Technology, such as virtual visits, have helped business continue, but it is harder to get people to buy without a face-to-face visit, he said.

The weather has also made it tough to look presentable.

“God forbid the air conditioner is out at a house that I’m showing or the electricity is off,” he joked, adding that he has been keeping an emergency towel and deodorant in the car.

That there are economic effects of climate change is not a surprise, but for Houston there are psychological effects as well. Matt Lanza sums it up:

Houston’s biggest advantages, what have helped it grow as much as it has in the past 50 years, have been better weather than the frozen North and cheaper housing. Neither of those are necessarily true any more – certainly, there’s much more room for debate – and now we’re in a forced-birth anti-LGBT book-banning state whose ruling party actively hates big cities and is working to destroy us. I know what the best answer for some of this is, but there’s no guarantee we’ll get there any time soon. You can see what the problem is.

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6 Responses to What if Houston gets too hot?

  1. Bayard Rustin says:

    When will the reality of climate change (aka global warming) finally be a universally-accepted reality? As it stands now, it’s as though it’s a communist conspiracy brought to us by the so-called coastal elites. There have been times recently when I returned from being outside with a sweltering hot car and driven straight home where normally I would have stopped for a bite to eat. That the Wall Street Journal, of all publications, should highlight this new normal is something.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    My utility bills show that the average temperature this time last year is the same as the temperature this year. Of course I am always outside, riding bicycles and motorcycles, walking, doing yard work, I like the heat, and always notice that there are way more people out in 95 degrees vs. what I call chilly weather say 48 degrees.

    You gotta wonder why the Houston city pools are only open two or three days a week now, plus the daily hours are smaller than they used to be. You gotta wonder why people don’t realize that way more people die from cold than heat.

  3. Flypusher says:

    It’s creeping up to near 40 years since I moved to the Houston area, so I’ve personally experienced plenty of brutal summers. What is bad about this year’s iteration is the reduced evening cool down. It’s much less bearable in the shade after 7pm than it used to be, even accounting for being older.

    The scary thought is that could be as “cool” as a summer gets for quite a while.

  4. John Hansen says:

    According to several articles I have read, there is wide acceptance in scientific circles that this year’s heat has been substantially exacerbated by a major volcanic eruption in the south Pacific. This eruption evaporated an estimated 40 trillion gallons of sea water into the atmosphere. The effect of this eruption is expected to last 3-10 years. Not all weather effects are attributable to global warming.

  5. GMcK says:

    It’s 88 degrees at midnight as I write this, and the heat index is 98. I don’t do anything outside after noon except run from air conditioned buildings to air conditioned cars. Houston is wonderful for much of the year, but I’m getting tired of worrying about hurricanes, floods, power outages and a state government that’s dedicated to mistreating “those people” including Democrats and city dwellers at every opportunity. I’ve lived in flat landscapes for much of my life; time to move to someplace with mountains.

  6. J says:

    I have been ok with the summers in the past because the evenings were breezy and ok for walking outdoors, if not pleasant. That isn’t the case anymore, it is still hot and unpleasant at night. It doesn’t help that inside the loop we have city-approved housing densification, which means a lot more concrete and a lot fewer trees. Added to this is a whole bunch more exterior air conditioner compressors dumping heat into the neighborhood. At some point the city will figure out it has goofed, by which time there won’t be any places left for trees to grow. It may not matter by then, as people figure out that the heat is only going to get worse and they begin to sell up and head north.

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