How Might Climate Change Affect the DWTX?

Our home has a fever. (Source)

How might this change in Earth's temperature affect the DWTX?

The following quotations are from the Executive Summary of the Assessment of Historic and Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036, 2021 Update, published by the Texas A&M University Office of the Texas State Climatologist.

The average annual Texas surface temperature in 2036 is expected to be 3.0 °F warmer than the 1950-1999 average and 1.8 °F warmer than the 1991-2020 average. The number of 100-degree days at typical stations is expected to nearly double by 2036 compared to 2001-2020, with higher frequency of 100-degree days in urban areas.

Implications for our churches: The figure below from the National Weather Service shows that heat is the largest cause of weather fatalities for 2021 and the 30-year average. There have been more heat-related deaths than than floods, tornados, or cold. Increasing temperatures will increase death rates for all people in the DWTX. 

Weather and climate drivers of wildfire risk are projected to increase the risk of wildfires throughout the state, primarily due to increased rates of drying and increased fuel load. The increase in wildfire risk may not be as large in far West Texas where rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation may overcome the carbon dioxide fertilization effect and lead to less accumulation of fuels.

Implications for our churches: Wildfires pose a substantial risk to the DWTX because much of our area is brushland or live oak-juniper woodland. The live oak-juniper woodland in the Hill Country is the location of hundreds if not thousands of beautiful homes widely dispersed through the landscape. These houses are not usually within organized fire fighting districts and will have little protection in the case of windblown wildfires.

The combination of coastal subsidence and sea level rise is contributing to or driving a general retreat of the Texas coastline, both along the barrier islands and in coastal wetlands. Relative sea level rise is expected to continue at similar average rates in the near future, as reduced groundwater extraction is balanced by accelerating sea level rise. Storm surges from hurricanes will tend to be more severe because of higher relative sea levels, and a possible increase in extreme hurricane intensity may further increase storm surge risk.

Implications for our churches: Sea level rise will impact our coastal economy by diminishing productivity of wetlands and estuaries and diminishing the attractiveness of our coastal for tourism and recreation. There will be increased risk of flooding.

The table below indicates that sea levels in the Western Gulf of Mexico, including the DWTX, may rise from 0.9 m (32 in.) to 2.6 m (8.5 ft.) by the year 2100 and possibly as much as 4.5 m (15 ft.) by the year 2150. Even the lowest rise would change our barrier islands, estuaries and wetlands, and significantly affect tourism, recreation, and some residential and commercial areas.  

The table is from the  Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States, published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, National Ocean Service, February, 2022.

Effects Beyond the DWTX

Climate change is global and will affect some places much more strongly than others. Our neighbors to the west in Arizona and California are already being severely impacted by the continuing drought there that has diminished flow in the Colorado River to historic lows. Forty million people and a large part of the nation's agriculture depend on the flow of that river.  If this continues, according to forecasts, many of those people will be forced to migrate and some will come here to Texas, in a reversal of the Dust Bowl migration of 90 years ago. As people called to respond to human misery, how will we help?

All of the United States will be affected, as shown in the paragraphs below from NASA. 

U.S. Regional Effects

Below are some of the impacts that are currently visible throughout the U.S. and will continue to affect these regions, according to the Third3 and Fourth4 National Climate Assessment Reports, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program:

Northeast. Heat waves, heavy downpours and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.

Northwest. Changes in the timing of streamflow reduce water supplies for competing demands. Sea level rise, erosion, inundation, risks to infrastructure and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks and tree diseases are causing widespread tree die-off.

Southeast. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.

Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes.

Southwest. Increased heat, drought and insect outbreaks, all linked to climate change, have increased wildfires. Declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.

Global Effects

The Natural Resources Defense Council identified the following effects which will be felt in varying degrees across the Earth.  Go to the NRDC to read more detail. 

Although perhaps far from us, all people of Earth are our neighbors, whom we are commanded to love.