We should be in Texas, but we’re not.
Texas probably will see a sharp increase in heat-related deaths and coastal storm-related losses in the coming decades if nothing is done to mitigate a changing climate, according to a new study commissioned by a bipartisan group of prominent policymakers and company executives aiming to spawn concern – and action – in the business community over the much-debated warming trend.
The study is the third region-specific analysis by the so-called Risky Business Project, an eclectic coalition led by former banker and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire hedge fund manager-turned-environmentalist Tom Steyer. The men co-chair a bipartisan 20-member governing committee made up mostly of former presidential Cabinet members – including President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state – who agree that climate change is occurring and that it will have negative economic consequences, but have consciously avoided the debate over whether human activity is causing it — or how to respond.
The first step in their mission? Highlighting the potentially devastating economic impact of climate change in the not-too-distant future. And, of course, not everyone is buying it.
Published Tuesday, “Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S.” found that Texas will be one of the states most negatively impacted by climate change by mid-century absent any changes.
Among the findings of the study, Texas will probably see by the 2050s:
- The number of extremely hot days per year – with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees – more than double, from an average of 43 to 106.
- About 4,500 additional heat-related deaths per year with nearly half that increase coming in the next five to 15 years. (For comparison’s sake, the study points out there were about 3,400 total automotive fatalities in Texas in 2013.)
- A sea level rise of up to 2 feet in Galveston.
- A $650-million-per-year increase in storm-related losses along the coast, bringing the state’s total annual damages to more than $3.9 billion.
- A marked decrease in both worker productivity and crop yields.
The idea is that if the group can convince business leaders that climate change is a true risk, they will in turn pressure policymakers to do something to address it, said committee member Henry Cisneros, a former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“We’ve seen that happen time and time again” with other divisive topics, Cisneros said, adding, “The implications for the productivity of the workforce are immense.”
That does not mean the business community will accept the findings of the study, however. And that reluctance appears largely rooted in the parts of the climate change debate the Risky Business Project has avoided amid a lack of clear-cut consensus among its leadership.
Claiming you can accurately model climate change over the short or long term is “arrogant” and “unrealistic,” said Stephen Minick, the head lobbyist for the Texas Association of Business.
While the powerful group believes climate change is occurring and businesses should account for it, Minick said that whether it is being caused by human activity — namely greenhouse gas emissions — is far from proven, along with the extremity and accuracy of the study’s predictions.
“We absolutely acknowledge the fact that the climate is changing and that sea levels are changing, partly because of climate, partly because of other reasons, and they always have and they always will,” he said.
“We have a long, long way to go in terms of our scientific knowledge … before we can make valid assumptions along those lines,” Minick added, asserting that accurate predictions are difficult in large part because big changes take place “over millenia.”
I believe that response can be summed up as follows:
You can see why this is unlikely to be taken seriously here. Hey, most of the people who don’t want to do anything about this will be dead long before 2050 anyway, so let the kids worry about it, amirite? The Observer and Hair Balls have more.