Texas Flooding a Reminder of Lack of Climate Change Preparation

Houston headlined the news of flooding this week, but swollen rivers rushed over their banks and onto roads and into homes all over the state of Texas this week. Is the state's infrastructure resilient enough for the effects of a changing climate?
May 29, 2015, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"Over the Memorial Day weekend widespread flooding occurred in at least eight counties in Texas, which include the cities of Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. These floods have brought a tragic loss of life and are forcing families from their homes," writes Rob Moore to set the stage for an examination of climate change preparations in the state of Texas.

Moore notes that Texas is particularly susceptible to flooding, averaging $254 million in damages a year. However, this week's floods could indicate that worse conditions are still to come.

"Climate projections indicate that Texans will increasingly live at the extremes, enduring long periods of drought and water scarcity, interspersed with episodes of intense storms that cause the kinds of flash flooding Texans have been enduring this week. With the additional risk of hurricanes and sea-level rise, climate change is going to make Texas increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters."

Moore notes how many in the Texas congressional representation are on the record in denying climate change. The state's policies reflect that denial: the state's 2013 official hazard mitigation plan, required to qualify the state for disaster funds from FEMA, does not acknowledge how climate change will impact the frequency and severity of natural disasters. (A new federal policy requires hazard mitigation plans to include climate change, but the state is not due for a new plan until 2018, according to Moore.) Meanwhile, "repetitive loss properties" have racked up $1 billion payments from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Moore does, however, acknowledge that 29 counties in the state "have adopted more stringent flood protection standards than required by the National Flood Insurance Program." Those Texas counties could provide a model for the rest of the state and the country, but despite the Obama Administration's desires to raise those standards, "members of Congress are intent on blocking these important public safety standards."  

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Published on Thursday, May 28, 2015 in NRDC Switchboard
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