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. ^ . . GROWNUP GIFTS FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES IN & SAN NORTH SOUTH EAST 5.E.MILITARY 832-8544 443-2292 654-8536 333-3043 RESEARCH E. RIVERSIDE CENTRAL WEST 502-9323 441-5555 822-7767 521-5213 The state’s response? Such a study, TCEQ wrote back, would be “costly, take up to a year to complete, and still not provide information to definitively address EPA’s concerns.” If Texas has a light hand for regulating ozone and other pollution generated by burning fuels, the hand of the state has stayed completely off the wheel where carbon dioxide is concerned. Even as evidence has mounted that Texas could experience catastrophic effects from human-caused global warming, the state’s regulatory agencies and top elected officials have refused to even acknowledge the threat. “The political leadership has no clue,” says Gerald North, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University who frequently makes presentations to the public on climate science. “The governor and TCEQ and all these people are in total denial.” The entire faculty of A&M’s department of atmospheric science has signed a letter endorsing the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global authority on the issue. The panel found that the world can expect at least 3.6 degrees of warming by 2100 if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Such a climate change brings with it a risk of serious adverse impacts on our environment and society:’ write the 21 faculty members, including the Perryappointed state climatologist. But it’s not Texas climate scientists that the TCEQ commissioners and Perry are listening to. In September, the leaders of three state agenciesTCEQ, the Public Utility Commission, and the Railroad Commissionconvened a “Cap and Trade Summit” at the state Capitol to warn of disastrous economic fallout from congressional action on climate change. The daylong event opened with Perry and featured representatives from the coal, gas, oil, manufacturing, and utility industries, as well as climate-change skeptics from industry-funded think tanks. Not a single climate scientist spoke. That omission was intentional. E-mail messages obtained by the Observer show that the conference organizer, PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman, explicitly ordered participants not to discuss the science of climate changewhile noting that he was a “skeptic.” He also tapped Phillip Oldham, a lobbyist for the Texas Association of Manufacturers, to find speakers. He also tapped Phillip Oldham, a lobbyist for the Texas Association of Manufacturers, to find speakers. “The skeptics in the scientific community are very loud and well-paid and well-publicized,” says North. “There are about half a dozen of these guys, and there are about a thousand on the other side. The thousand are grinding away in their labs and at their computers, and you have these six guys who are out on the stump having the time of their lives. Its amazing.” North points to a growing body of regional climate modeling that suggests much of Texas is likely to become a lot hotter and drier during this century. One study, published in Science in 2007, suggests that a transition to Dust Bowl conditions in the American Southwest is pending, with a permanent drought expected by 205o. Meanwhile, sea-level rise could also swamp the Texas coastline, inundating much of Galveston Island, Padre Island, and land around the Houston Ship Channel. An A&M study published this summer warned that damage to the state’s coastal communities could triple by 2080 because of intensified hurricanes \(linked to By mid-century, the damage to Texas’ rivers and lakes could be catastrophic as well. Freshwater reaching the coastcritical in the life cycles of shrimp, crabs and game-fishcould be reduced by 3o percent during normal conditions and 85 percent during droughts. \(That’s according to an analysis by George Ward, a professor in the University of Texas at Austin’s Center In light of these grim predictions, North argues that it’s foolhardy to build more coal-fired power plants. “Why would you do it if you don’t have to?” he asks. “What it’s going to do is change Texas. We’re going to have problems with water here; we’re going to have problems with higher temperatures:’ Environmental groups have tried, without success, to raise the carbon issue in TCEQ hearings. “The TCEQ has absolutely shut us out in every case so far,” says Elena Marks. Environmentalists are trying to force TCEQ’s hand. In October, Public Citizen sued the agency in state court, arguing that TCEQ’s refusal to even hear testimony on carbon dioxide’s connection to climate change violates the Texas Clean Air Act. In December, governments from around the world will meet in Denmark to try to hammer out a new climate-change agreement. Congress is expected to pass greenhouse-gas legislation next year that will put a price on carbon, making coal less attractive as a fueland profitsource. The companies hoping to open coal plants in Texas are likely banking on the bill including a “grandfather” clause for companies receiving their air and water permits by a certain date. Like it or not, critics of Texas’ coal revival say, a carbon-constrained world is a reality. Rather than prepare for the inevitable, the state’s regulators and elected officials have chosen to play the part of wrecking crew, ignoring or denying the science behind climate change and attacking efforts to get greenhouse gasses under control. “The train has left the station,” Marks says. “It doesn’t matter anymore whether you believe in [global warming] or not. The powers-that-be in this country believe in it and are going to regulate it.” And Texas? “From a planning, economic, and political perspective, I think they’ve wasted a real opportunity to be a part of the future:’ 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 13, 2009