Vol 30, Issue 38 Print Issue

Guest Column: Time to Act — Climate Science is Clear

There's no rule that the chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology has to be a scientist. It's embarrassing, though, that U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, hasn't even bothered to learn the basic science of climate disruption. It shouldn't be hard. He could start in his own district, at the University of Texas at Austin. If that's not good enough, then how about the entire faculty of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, which has endorsed the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Any of these scientists could explain how human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, has radically changed our atmosphere.

In fact, 97 percent of the world's climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activity. The world cannot afford to wait any longer for climate action, especially when we already have commonsense climate solutions that will benefit our economy, health and future.

Fortunately, most Texans get it, even if some of our leaders don't. A recent statewide survey of Texans conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change found that 70 percent believe climate change is happening, and a solid majority believes that we should already be doing something about it.

The past three years of drought in Texas have shown what's at stake. Scientists are telling us that this will become the new normal unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unless we act now, our state, our water and the planet will be changed in ways that will damage our very way of life.

Fossil fuel industries and the politicians they bankroll have a stake in confusing people and creating the appearance of scientific doubt where there is none. Try as they might, though, they are doomed to fail, because clever politics and backroom deals cannot reverse the realities of science.

 

Fortunately, Texans are smart and pragmatic. We know that fossil fuel industries like coal will do and say anything to push their products and protect their profits. What's more, all we need to do is look around us to see what clean energy really looks like.

If Texas were a country, it would be the sixth-largest generator of wind power in the world. With 10,900 megawatts installed, we already get 10 percent of our electricity from wind, and that's expected to nearly double to 18,000 megawatts by 2018.

Solar is just beginning to take off in our state, but CPS Energy and Austin Energy have already installed large-scale solar. Texas could do even more solar by simply adopting a statewide policy on net metering that would allow homeowners who put solar on their rooftops to get paid for all of the energy they generate and contribute to the grid.

There are also more things we could do to reduce energy waste and to improve demand response, such as lifting some cost caps on the energy-efficiency programs run by our utilities.

As a Texan, I'm proud of the progress our state has already made and will continue to make in developing clean energy and excited about the promise of new technologies and smart solutions for our future. As the mother of an 11-year-old, I'm determined to do all I can to help prevent the worst effects of climate disruption. Pretending there's no problem is not a solution — it's a shameful abdication of responsibility.

Scheleen Walker is director of the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter.