Texas and Climate Change

Texas Positive Response to Climate Change

by

Howard Adelman

Texas is not like Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a huge population and is the state most susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Given its low elevation and severe tropical storms, irreversible processes already underway guarantee massive numbers of environmental refugees from Bangladesh. Given the endemic corruption in the state, one can expect political and economic destabilization and a breakout of riots. Texas, however great the crisis it faces, is far from a basket case.
Yesterday, I wrote about aquifers. Texas has a detailed state-wide map of its aquifers and of all the wells that tap into them, the amount of water each takes out and any problems with the quality of that water. California, in contrast, knows next to nothing about its aquifers. With a history of water wars within the state and against other states, well-drilling records are not accessible to the public. Texas has a system for regulating groundwater use; California, though it is considering such measures, lacks such regulations. I begin with aquifers, not simply because I discussed them in the last blog, but because the aquifer regime in Texas speaks to the issue of Texas being an anti-regulatory state rhetorically. But a system of regulations that address the issue of the consequences of climate change already exist even if successive Texas governments denounced the climate change thesis as a hoax.

With the exception of minor aquifers that supply 3% of Texas water, nine aquifers supply 97 percent of the groundwater used in Texas with different annual pumping rates, recharge rates and projected safe annual availability rates to ensure that water quality is not affected.

1990
Pump Rates 1995
Pump Rates Annual Recharge Projected Safe Annual Yields
Ogallala 5.55 6.22 0.30 3.81
Edwards (Balcones) 0.53 0.47 0.44 0.44
Edwards-Trinity 0.19 0.25 0.78 0.78
Carrizo-Wilcox 0.45 0.49 0.64 0.85
Trinity 0.19 0.19 0.10 0.11
Gulf Coast 1.23 1.15 1.23 1.23
Others 0.32 0.39 0.43 0.97
TOTAL 8.56 9.16 3.92 8.19

One figure stands out. By far the largest aquifer source, Ogallala, has a projected safe level of extraction of 3.81 but a pumping rate twice that. This is an issue of concern to all Texans no matter what party or what their position on climate change. It is, I believe, the basis for cooperation on a number of resource issues that cross party lines. Further, it is an indicator that public policy on water as well as on energy sources will be based on pragmatic rather than ideological positions. Tough the state is ideologically anti-regulation, it has no trouble introducing regulations to handle issues on which there is consensus.

In a 2014 report (http://gov.texas.gov/files/ecodev/Renewable_Energy.pdf) on “The Texas Renewable Energy Industry, Texas is the No. 1 provider not only of wind energy, but of biofuel production, ranking number 6 in the world compared to all other countries as a source of renewable energy. Texas hosts the largest biomass power plant and the largest biodiesel plant in America and has the second largest number of workers of any state employed in the renewable energy industry. Texas is on schedule to have the largest solar PV R&D facility at Texas A&M and the nation’s largest 400 MW solar plant.

In terms of renewable energy, among American states, Texas ranks:
No. 1 in wind energy capacity
No. 1 in wind energy-related manufacturing
No. 1 in wind industry employment
No. 2 in total renewable energy employment
No. 1 in biodiesel production
No. 1 in solar potential
No. 6 in solar energy industry employment
No. 4 for clean energy-related patents.

How can a state governed by climate deniers be so advanced in renewable energy production and innovation? How can a state which has been so reliant on fossil fuel energy resources (it has the largest oil and gas industry in the country) also develop the largest capacity for renewable energy? In 2013, Texas ranked third in the nation by Ernst & Young in terms of the Renewable Attractiveness Indices, primarily based on its wind and solar energy production. Such a development seems counter-intuitive. Western Texas with its high plains and coastal winds was responsible for supplying 76% of renewable energy consumption in Texas in 2011. That percentage has continued to grow. Renewable energy industries, that began to take off in 2005, have experienced amazing growth, helped by a state-wide electrical grid that escapes any intervention of federal regulation since it exists solely within the state, reinforcing the state’s self-identification as an anti-regulatory state. With deregulation, competition increased as customers were allowed, even encouraged, to choose their electricity provider, even opting for companies that supplied electricity only from renewable energy sources. Costs have fallen and services increased.

There are several factors. Texas offers a low regulatory market for entrepreneurs. It takes at most 3 years to get approval for a project; the estimated time in California is 7 years plus. As a result, Texas, an anti-climate change state, has 2.5 times the production of renewable energy as California, a state steeped in incentives, regulations and programs to promote renewable energy. Secondly and perversely, Texas is not ideologically wedded to renewable energy. It is wedded to diversification and security in energy production. It couches these principles, not in terms of efforts to counter climate change, but in an ability to respond to changing economic and political conditions.

This does not mean that the state played no part in this robust environment for developing sources of renewable energy. Standards were set as well as targets with progress left to the private sector. Targets were surpassed in five years rather than the twenty years planned. Texas set up an investment fund to create jobs in the renewable energy field and a technological fund to invest in innovation in the renewable energy field. The state offered property tax exemptions and programs of renewable franchise tax deductions to provide incentives for renewable energy production. Texas now uses Smart Grid Technology to make energy distribution efficient.

In sum, money and profits rather than ideology have determined the extraordinary advances in renewable energy in Texas without the backlash of fears of job losses as renewable energy replaces and displaces fossil fuel energy sources. Most significantly, the cost of energy in Texas runs from one half to one-third of the cost of electricity in California while Texas has almost half as many employees as California employed in renewable energy companies. Further, the rural population of West Texas has been incentivized by rents for wind farms that are much higher than they could get from any other source. Further, there has been a spillover effect into manufacturing as companies engaged in wind energy production have become established to develop and improve the equipment needed for the extensive wind farms.

I have focused on wind sourced renewable energy rather than solar because it is in this area that Texas has a natural advantage. But solar sources are also being developed. In all areas of renewable energy, costs have dropped dramatically so that the only fossil fuel that is still competitive with efficient renewable energy production facilities is natural gas, and even here renewables are expected to overtake gas as the economic energy source in the very near future. I have also ignored the production of energy via nuclear plants. South Korea now gets half of its energy from such sources and the plants are considered to be among the safest in the world.

There is another factor that benefits renewables. Fracking to recover oil and gas uses water and water, if properly priced, should be more expensive than the fossil fuels obtained. Given the severe shortages of water, there is a strong collective incentive to shift to renewables without getting into a debate over the scientific validity of climate change. In some countries, like Israel, gas sources from the immense gas field off its coast will be used to make fresh water and help refill the aquifers, not only in Israel but in the West Bank and Jordan.

In sum, renewable energy sources have become very competitive in cost, are on route to displacing fossil fuels, have been a catalyst for innovation and at a time scale much shorter than anticipated ten years ago. Does that mean state regulations and incentives are not needed? Not at all. But they may not be needed as much as we previously believed. Research documenting progress in the development of renewable energy sources, in encouraging research itself, in attracting capital, in training labour and in fostering the development of renewable energy sources may be much more important than imposing carbon taxes. Far less regulation may be required, perhaps addressed to very different issues. Pull factors may be more helpful than push factors. If a carbon tax seems to still be needed, perhaps the rationale merely needs to be that fossil fuels pay the full cost of their employment and not just of their extraction.

Detaching indices of energy innovation and development, particularly in terms of renewable energy, from incentives for environmental innovation to counter climate change may be the best route. Uncoupling that which never really required coupling perhaps offers a route out of the climate change crisis.

Of course, Texas has had many natural advantages compared to California. Wind capacity is 45% greater than in California, so it is no surprise that Texas is the leading state for wind energy production. However, California (along with Oregon and Washington) remains the state which has been most innovative in both the environmental as well as the renewable energy sector. Perhaps in Texas, bolstering the research capacity may be a better way to deploy capital resources.

Thus, the fact that Donald Trump suffers from mindblindness about climate change may be beside the point. He described environmentalists as romantic tree huggers in his 2015 volume, Crippled America. But those battling climate change need not be ideologues or puritans in addressing the resolution rather than the depiction of the issue. If they are not, then they might be far more open to partnering with entrepreneurs and the private sector rather than relying on a government regulatory regime as the prime mode of making progress. If anti-tax, anti-subsidy and anti-regulation Trump decides to eliminate the two key tax credits, the renewable energy sector might be set back. But the sky will not fall in. There are enough incentives in place already. Enough players as well as enough momentum that the replacement of fossil fuels by renewables might be slowed down, but it will not be reversed.

The apocalypse will be avoided.

Is this true? Or is this just another expression of vain hope? After all, both wind and solar are not yet cheaper than gas. Remove the two U.S. federal tax credits and they will be even more expensive and make oil competitive. Inertia, however, is there, not the inertia of inaction but the inertia of continuous movement. If in Texas, just over 100,000 are employed in the renewable energy field, 600,000 are employed across America. (U.S. Energy and Employment Report) In equipment manufacturing and solar installation, “solar electric generation technologies employ about 209,000 workers across the nation; an additional 91,000 workers also spend some amount of time working with solar technologies. In the U.S., the solar sector has grown by just over 20% between November 2014 and November 2015, and employers expect to increase total employment by another 15% over the coming 12 months.” (p. 28)

“Wind generation firms employ just over 77,000 workers. The majority of employers reported difficulty hiring qualified workers over the past 12 months; about seven in ten reported hiring difficulty, while 18% note it was very difficult to find qualified applicants. The most cited reason for difficulty was lack of experience, training, or technical skills (44%), followed by insufficient qualifications, certifications, or education (33%) and competition or a small applicant pool (19%). Firms report the most difficulty in hiring for management positions (27%), as well as engineers (27%) and sales, marketing, or customer service representatives (16%).” So the most important impediment to growth in the industry may be skills shortages.

Skilled labour shortages are not only a problem for the renewable energy field but for the fossil fuel industry as well as construction and installation. “Over three‐quarters of construction and installation firms (77%) report hiring difficulty over the past 12 months; three in ten (32%) note it was very difficult to find qualified applicants. Almost half of all firms surveyed note that lack of experience, training, or technical skills (43%) was a significant reason for hiring difficulty, as well as insufficient qualifications, certifications, or education (33%). Construction firms encountered difficulties trying to find installation workers (30%), technicians or technical support (26%), and electricians or general construction workers (25%). “This is where government intervention is most important – in education and training.

And this does not touch the manufacturing and the distribution sectors as well as professional and business services connected to energy, particularly the renewable energy sector. Of course, renewables still represent only 10% of the energy market. Coal alone is 18%. Gas is over 27% and petroleum represents almost 35% of the market. The rate of growth of renewables, however extraordinary, may not be nearly sufficient to offset the fossil fuels within a reasonable time. This is why the renewable sector requires a quantum push. But if that push comes from demands and penalties, political resistance and insufficient and inadequately trained personnel might undercut any push. The changeover will take time no matter how it is accomplished. Encouragement of and impetus from the private sector may be the more reliable force for ensuring rapid change. In any case, at least in Texas, wind energy has become cheaper than coal or oil and this will soon be the case with even natural gas.

If Trump promotes infrastructure, that means renewing the electrical grid to better accommodate solar and wind energy sources and the distribution of that energy from areas of economic production. What if Trump cancels the Production Tax Credit, the subsidies on costs of renewables for the first ten years, or the Investment Tax Credit subsidizing both consumers and manufacturers of renewable energy? The Investment Tax Credit will not phase out until 2019 and the Investment Tax Credit not until 2023. The subsidies are probably sufficient to get renewables over the hump so that they become more than competitive across the board in most areas of America, especially true if the subsidies for coal, oil and gas are also phased out at the same time. In any case, cancellation would meet strong resistance from Congressional Republicans since these two measures were introduced in the two Bush regimes.

As the report by Maggie Koerth-Baker on renewable energy published two days ago, and sent to me by my eldest son, pointed out, climate change is politically contentious, but energy change is not. 73% of Americans favour renewables replacing fossil fuels, including a majority of Republicans. Is that report naïve, as some ecologists contend? Those critics tend to be the puritans and the ideologues who only have faith in government initiatives and are suspicious of the private sector providing a significant impetus. But Texas suggests otherwise.

One of my other sons sent me another article by Michael Webber published yesterday in The New York Times arguing convincingly that “The Coal Industry Isn’t Coming Back” in spite of The Donald’s promises that he made to the West Virginia ex-coal miners. To repeat, natural gas beat coal, not Washington. And it is illusory to believe that Trump can and will resist these market forces. As in many other areas, expect Donald Trump to rely on lying and circus entertainment to distract the many West Virginians that voted for him.

Donald Trump may bring the American economy to its knees. Donald Trump might even instigate World War III or at a minimum expand violence around the world. But it is highly unlikely that he will now be able to impede the momentum behind enormous growth in renewable energy sources, even if he wanted to try. And there is little reason for him to make that effort.

One of my readers, who appears to be a critic of tree huggers, wrote, “in the field of climate science there are no eloquent scientists that speak intelligently or regularly as experts on this subject in North America.” This is blatantly false and reinforces the climate change deniers. He wrote, “Howard, where are the people who are proving their scientific theories in mass media? Up until now, the load is left on the inferior shoulders of politicians and now philosophers.” However, all recognized scientific associations endorse the enormous danger of climate change and link it with the use of fossil fuel. “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (2009) The American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006 issued a bulletin that stated that, “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” In 2012, the American Meteorological Society proclaimed that, “It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide.”

The conclusions are unequivocal. Climate change deniers simply live in an alternate universe that is a fool’s paradise. Nevertheless, the forces underway are sufficient to get around troglodytes and self-deceivers like Donald Trump. That same correspondent wrote that the hole in the ozone layer and its growth proved to be a fiction. It was not. The banning of freon (R-12, R-22 and CFC-122 refrigerants) in 1995 reversed the process. My correspondent also wrote that, “Strangely though, carbon usage to create energy to create electricity will vanish soon. New solar science in Saudi Arabia is so revolutionary that the Saudis believe their solar energy creation will allow them to generate enough electricity that petroleum will cease to be the Saudis largest export. Bell Laboratories is leading a plan to have the world’s arid areas to create massive solar electrical plants, sufficient to stop usage of carbon in the whole world of creating electricity.” The only fault with this statement is that it is not strange but becoming the new norm.

What about my claim that the private sector initiatives already underway with sufficient momentum will prevent Armageddon? No guarantees. Of course, Donald Trump would not agree with this. He is a climate change denier. This does not mean that his business model will not threaten to bankrupt America because of greatly reduced taxes alongside enormous increases in public expenditures. His economic policies will accrue to his associates, the media interventions he proposes and his new bankruptcy laws will create enormous distortions. Renewable energy replacement may not proceed at the same pace as if it had enormous government backing. But deregulation may, in certain ways, help such developments if Texas is any indicator, in spite of climate change deniers. My only claim is that there is enough momentum that I for one do not have to despair about Trump reversing the replacement of fossil fuels by renewables. I may despair about Donald Trump in a myriad of other ways, but the fact that he is a climate change denier says more about his persona than it does about impeding significantly changes underway in the energy sector.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Climate Change Denial in Texas

Climate Change and Texas Therapy

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday’s blog on climate change clearly hit a nerve. So did the fact that I had gone on too long to provide an answer. Look at a few selections:

I

As for THIS latest blog you just wrote?…………………damn………..I need the therapy. And I need it now. I am still bummed by that doofus. NOT just because of the obvious reasons but also because he has shattered all my moral and ethical constructs. It is like he is the little old man of OZ as yet undiscovered. Just wind and special effects but weaker than hell. He blew away Tinkerbell and all my Disney foundations. Good, it seems, has no chance against lies and corruption, theft and cheating. Dumb wins. Hell, dumb and evil won.

Admittedly, HC was undeserving but that does not excuse or legitimize Trump in any way. If Disney was right, the USA would have voted Obama back in despite the two-term limit….as a write-in.

Please, HA, save me………………….I’ll take a magic feather……whatever……….

II:

Not sure why Texas would be therapeutic here…What’s missing in your analysis is Trump’s model of economic growth, which is debt and carbon-led. He doesn’t have anything else in his head. We can analyze the China card or Putin’s mailed fist all we want, but it really comes down to the model of accumulation.

III:

Our daughter, an expert for Standard and Poor’s on utilities, currently finishing 6 months of being seconded to Canary Wharf but returning home by December 1 says: the individual states will continue to implement anti-climate change policies. Colorado, Arizona, Texas and California have huge investments in green energy (and this I know due to in my role as expert witness in hearings re wind turbines). So I am predicting tomorrow we will read that you have learned about massive green energy projects in Texas. Am I right? Bloomberg news is a good source about the implementation of green energy everywhere. Further word from my daughter. She is not concerned about Trump and climate change. She is concerned about Trump starting World War III.

Dead on in the third, though also the second. So how can Texas serve as a model for dealing with climate change? My thesis, absorbed from my nephew who is a professor of Environmental Law in Austin, is precisely that – the investment in the private sector in renewable energy is so advanced and now more than competitive with fossil fuel sources of energy. That economic edge will mean that the market, and not government regulation or intervention, will now assume the leading edge in fighting climate change and do so in spite of Donald Trump’s proposed irrational economic policies. Tomorrow we will see whether this thesis has any validity. (My apologies to my first respondent above, but I have offered you a bone to chew on while you eagerly await tomorrow’s contribution.) Today, I want to offer a portrait of why Texas seems like the least likely political environment and the most needed physical environment to implement measures to impede and reverse climate change.

However, before I plunge into economics, let me discuss a sociological and political lesson that I received upon my arrival in Austin, Texas. I took a cab from the airport to my nephew’s house upon my arrival. As it turned out, the cab driver had voted for Trump. Though I was unable to ascertain or learn which Middle Eastern country he was from – he dodged my queries though he was unhesitating in telling me about how he voted even though he quickly learned that I was critical of the election of Donald Trump. Why did he vote for The Donald? In his words, Donald did not talk like all the other experts, media people and rich guys. He talked like he was one of us. As he put it, “He talked like we do.” Crass. Opinionated. Straight from the hip rather than the brain. Trump may have been a billionaire, but that simply made it more significant that he was not an elitist member of the establishment.

Until that conversation, I had come to believe that the election of Trump was a right-wing populist revolt against democratic responsible government and urban elites in general. There is some truth in that conclusion, but it is far from the whole truth. Donald Trump is the first American presidential candidate in the history of that country to openly assert, in effect, that America was and still is structured as a democratic monarchy and that he was running to be the elected monarch of the American people. Though he is very wealthy, he claimed to be running against the well-endowed who use their wealth to enrich themselves. And who should know that better than he who spent a career buying the favours of politicians. Donald Trump was also running against career politicians; he claimed Hillary Clinton was an exemplar who may have said that she worked for all the people, but Trump accused her along with many others of using their positions in political office to enrich themselves at the expense of that citizenry. Donald was running against the plutocracy of the rich and the would-be rich.

Trump made his wealth in the private sector. Now he has used his private wealth to achieve public office ostensibly to work on behalf of the citizens. And on behalf of the state of which those citizens are members to make that state “great again”. Trump is not viewed as a monarch who becomes a tyrant to benefit himself financially. He presents himself as a man of property and leisure purportedly dedicated to serving the citizenry and the state. He is neither a tradesman nor a labourer, neither a craftsman nor a professional who still has to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. He is an individual who portrays himself as a plutocrat, but one now opposed to the plutocracy of wealth, privilege and power. He is the American Moses who, though raised in a palace, would lead his people to freedom and glory. Though not quite articulated in this way, this is how that cab driver saw The Donald. And the cabbie was born in some Middle East country.

A plutocrat uses wealth (ploutos, πλοῦτος) to acquire power (kratos, κράτος). Trump was perceived as using wealth to exercise power on behalf of the citizenry who felt excluded from the centres of power and were looking for a champion. They had no illusions that the United States was a country that inherently was run by the people and for the people. Rather, it was a country that required an elected monarch who served all effectively disenfranchised citizens. The use of Greek is important because it was Aristotle who, 2,500 years ago, articulated the various possible forms of government.

In Book V, Part X of his Politics, Aristotle pointed out that in one form of monarchy, aristocrats chose the king from among their number to protect the interests of the better class against the people. That monarch could and might seize absolute power from his fellow aristocrats; in doing so, he would become a tyrant. But there is another form of tyranny which marries oligarchy to democracy to create a system of governance ostensibly to work on behalf of the people against the plutocrats. As Aristotle wrote, “a tyrant is chosen from the people to be their protector against the notables.” He went on to write, “History shows that almost all tyrants have been demagogues who gained the favor of the people by their accusation of the notables.” Tyrants can arise from aristocrats who turn against their own class after being chosen from that class, or begin as demagogues ostensibly acting on behalf of the people and becoming a tyrant via this route.

America is headed towards tyranny, make no mistake about it. The system of checks and balances will be used to consolidate power not check it. From the conversation with the taxi driver, I saw all my fears validated. But what about my fear of this demagogue and would-be tyrant who is deeply embedded in conspiracy theories and is a denier of the aristocracy of science and particularly those scientists who documented climate change? Those scientists have warned the populace of the dangers of climate change. One cannot expect Trump to be the one who advances the environmental policies needed. Instead, he is expected to exacerbate the problems associated with climate change.

Rick Perry, the past Republican Governor of Texas, was one of America’s most outspoken climate change deniers. At the same time, he declared a drought emergency in 200 counties of Texas over five years ago. In his proclamation, he stated, “Record high temperatures, preceded by significantly low rainfall, have resulted in declining reservoir and aquifer levels, threatening water supplies and delivery systems in many parts of the state.” So in the face of extreme weather and its acknowledgement, the governor doggedly refused to accept climate change as a reality. His successor two years ago, Governor Greg Abbott joined other climate change deniers from Texas to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Clean Power Plan” and new EPA regulations.

The governors are not the only ones opposing regulations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. They are backed by a cohort of Republicans who agree that climate change is a hoax. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the lower 48 states. The NOAA linked extreme events in Texas and drought to climate change. How did the legislatures react? Not by combating climate change, but by putting band-aids on the effects. One might argue, as Abbott did, that EPA regulations interfere with Texas sovereignty and will certainly result in higher energy prices for Texans. In other words, Abbott possibly may not be a fanatical climate change denier but a believer in state’s rights and an opponent of increased regulation. After all, his statements on climate change have been somewhat equivocal.

“As a matter of historical fact, the climate changes. Long before fossil fuel was ever discovered and used on a large-scale industrial basis, the earth’s climate changed substantially on numerous occasions. However, many scientists believe that certain human activities impact the climate. Others dispute the extent to which any activity has a particular level of influence on the climate, which is why this matter needs to continue to be investigated. We must be good guardians of our Earth, but we must base our decisions on peer-reviewed scientific inquiry, free from political demagogues using climate change as an excuse to remake the American economy.”

A coalition has been formed 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 three lead a bi-partisan 20-member governing committee of mostly former presidential Cabinet members. They commissioned a report – “Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas.” In the absence of any steps to reverse the process, that report singled out Texas as one of the states most negatively impacted by climate change. By mid-century, Texans could expect a sharp increase in heat-related deaths (4,500 per year in the next 5-15 years) and storm-related losses ($650 million/year), and a decrease in worker productivity and crop yields. Extreme hot weather days with temperatures in excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit would increase from 43 to 106 days per annum, almost 30% of the year. Further, the sea can be expected to rise in Galveston by 2 feet and global warming was already identified by climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon as the major cause of the devastating floods that recently hit Texas.

But these are just the visible consequences of climate change. There are invisible ones as well, that is, ones we cannot see with the naked eye. All of them are not only negative effects of climate change, but also instigators of more climate change to different degrees. They affect the air, the oceans and the regions below the surface of the earth. The most important of them is the CO2 thrust into the atmosphere. It is viewed as the major catalyst for climate change responsible for the so-called greenhouse effect. At the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists hypothesized that lower levels of CO2 in the atmosphere had been responsible for the ice ages. They began to speculate and then prophecize about the reverse effect. Higher levels of CO2 has resulted and would continue to result in increased global warming.

In the year I was born, 1938, a scientist, G.S. Callendar, pointed out that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was climbing and raising global temperatures. The overwhelming number of scientists, though not quite climate change deniers, were certainly climate change sceptics. But as the evidence mounted, as measurements year after year documented the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, correlated that with accelerating rates of climate change, conducted lab experiments to verify the hypothesis, between 1960 and 1990, virtually all scientists accepted climate change as a reality and CO2 as the principal cause. But this was also a consequence as desertification spread and there were fewer trees to convert the gas back into oxygen. And these are just illustrations.

The coral in the sea and the huge fish populations in the oceans have been devastated by relatively minor fluctuations in the temperature of the ocean. More heat produced goes into the oceans than into the atmosphere, considerably more. While the atmosphere absorbs 2.3% of the additional heat produced and the continents almost as much and the glaciers and ice sheets about the same amount, 93.4% of additional heat is absorbed by the oceans. Admittedly, oceans are huge. But not nearly huge enough for the huge volumes of heat produced. The temperatures of the oceans began a steady rise since the 1970s at the same time that CO2 in the atmosphere was clearly having noticeable effects. From 1970 to 2010, the global ocean heat content has risen dramatically. That has been correlated with coral bleaching and the decline in the prevalence of fish stocks. That has in turn resulted in further increases in ocean temperatures and more and more widespread heat anomalies. These changes in turn affect our weather patterns and produce more violent extremes of weather. The droughts and the forest fires unleashed in turn accelerate the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 and ocean temperatures.

However, the hidden result that I want to point out is the effect on the aquifers, in particular the aquifers in Texas. Aquifers are a critical part of the eco-systems method of recirculating fresh water. They are the storage chambers of many varieties that exist below the surface of the earth, unseen but not untapped. An aquifer is rock or sediment of different degrees of permeability (in contrast to clay and shale) that transports water underground in sufficient volume and quality to be used by humans. Aquifers have recharge and discharge areas. The recharge areas are shrinking and the recharge ability has sunk below sustainability. Our aquifers are being drained. Trump wanted to drain the swamp in Washington, but there is a real and present danger that his policies might accelerate the rate at which our aquifers are being drained with just the enhanced use of fracking to recover gas and oil beneath the surface, though there are many other causes.

In Texas, aquifers provide more than half the water supply, 2.5 trillion gallons. 90% of the state’s groundwater comes from only nine major aquifers. Some of those aquifers as they are being drained are becoming increasingly saline (the Lipan aquifer). The most prolific aquifer of all and one of the largest in the world is the Ogallala aquifer of the Southern High Plains that provides water for Midwest states (Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico) and, in particular, West Texas. When there is drought, and there has been now year after year, conflict between agricultural and domestic pumpers increase. 27% of land irrigated in the U.S. takes place because of aquifers like Ogallala. That aquifer is at clear risk of over-extraction and pollution. Since 1950, because of agricultural use to feed water hungry crops like corn, the size of the aquifer has been reduced by almost 10%. “The depletion between 2001 and 2008, inclusive, is about 32% of the cumulative depletion during the entire 20th century.” The rate of use has clearly become unsustainable.

This is but a sideward glance into the problem. Texas may cumulatively be the most affected area in the United States by climate change. Yet it is home to the most vociferous climate change deniers. In the face of these disasters in 2015, Ted Cruz (Republican Senator from Texas in the U.S. Senate), already a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and a prominent climate change denier, dodged all efforts to link these devastating events with climate change. In other words, on both the state and the federal level, Texas was both a hotbed of climate change effects and of climate change deniers who buried their heads in the sand to retain an irrational set of beliefs. Yet it is in Texas, in this oil-rich state with a plethora of offshore oil platforms, that we have witnessed the most innovative steps to combat climate change, not because of public policy but in spite of it.

Texas would appear to be the state least likely to respond to the challenges of climate change given the politicians in charge. Texas is also a state where it is imperative that the challenges of climate change be tackled. So how and why has the reversal taken place in Texas and what is the extent?
Tomorrow: The Texas Inversion and Its Causes