Lone Star Green: Texas Republican Party is the real 'extremist' in the climate fight

A future without rain, projections from the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

By Greg Harman

Hot? Dumb question. Unless you work in an ice factory, movie theater, or chilly data center, you know you are. Last month was the warmest July in the continental U.S. on the record books, capping the warmest 12-month period the U.S. has experienced since 1895 when record keeping began. Despite being engaged in a relatively young science, climatologists have already started teasing out the fingerprints of climate change from the data logs of last year's record drought that turned the state of Texas into a tinderbox. And the projections? They don't look good for our species — or any other. Some researchers have found that if greenhouse gases continue unrestrained that parts of the globe may become uninhabitable: people will simply not be able to sweat enough to regulate their internal thermostats. Which brings me to the Texas Republican Party's plea for protection from “extreme environmentalists” as expressed in the 2012 party platform. “We STILL hold these truths to be self-evident,” the party opens matters in a riff on the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” But where is the right to life in the Texas Republican fight to block the regulation of greenhouse gases in Texas, gases that are expected to collectively raise the planet's temperature by six degrees or more this century? The state party holds Texas up as the “embodiment of the conservative dream in America,” but there is a rude awakening materializing for the state that emits as much greenhouse gas as a small country. Overpowering all the talk of “market solutions” and “limited government” is the lurking specter of a planet destabilized by our consumption and energy choices. On the whole, the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have trended to the conservative side of the street: droughts have come harder and temps have risen faster than we expected. Now a paper published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Hydrometeorology focused on drought in the U.S. and Mexico suggests much worse is ahead than the popular read on most climate models projected: think Dust-Bowl-style droughts becoming the year-by-year norm by the later part of this century. “The situation is compounded in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean as precipitation is robustly projected to decrease because of the expansion of the tropics (technically the expansion of the Hadley Circulation),” Michael Wehner, one of the key authors of “Projections of Future Drought in the Continental United States and Mexico,” wrote the Current by email. “In the U.S., a lot of the increased drought would be due to increased evaporation.”And for Texas, climate change not only means increased temperatures and evaporation, but declining precipitation: 10 to 20 percent on average, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (see graphic, top). For the handful of you so enmeshed in the fight against reproductive choice that you haven't noticed: there's a preview of this future climate outside your window. The USDA has declared more than half of the United States to be a drought-ravaged disaster area. Spikes in global food prices beckon. This is what climatologists suggest will become the “new normal.” I don't know about you, but I watch all of this happening and then read the Texas Republican Party platform pleading for “protection” from “extreme environmentalists” and I have to shake my head in dismay. For those who have not read this document, let me quote the plank that inspired me to write today.
Protection from Extreme Environmentalists — We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. ... We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.
Which position is more “extreme”? Calling for the rapid re-organization of our energy infrastructure to stave off the worst of the wrath building up in our atmosphere and acidifying ocean, or the call in the name of short-term profits for the dismantling of the agency with the regulatory authority to potentially dampen the spread of global fire? There are bright spots. San Antonio's contract for 400 megawatts of new solar capacity and a manufacturing plant of solar components is the sort of action utilities around the country should be hastily replicating. And plans by CPS Energy to shutter our dirtiest coal plant, linked not only to climate change but the heavy metal poisoning of our children, should be stepped up. It's a start. One thing is for certain: Anyone still claiming global warming/climate change to be a “hoax” can only be accurately described as either dishonest or scientifically ignorant. And most of the later, I'm afraid, are willfully so. Among that number falls the new, extreme Texas Republican Party.