HOUSTON—This year’s unprecedented heat wave is part of a broader trend of rising temperatures in Texas, according to a new report released today by Environment Texas. The average temperature in Houston is up 1.1° F since 2000 compared with the previous three decades (1971-2000).
“Global warming is happening, and Texans are feeling the heat,” said Environment Texas field associate Christian Alexander. “Temperatures will continue to rise unless we quickly and significantly reduce global warming pollution from power plants, cars, and SUVs,” continued Alexander.
In the continental United States, the first seven months of 2006 were the warmest January-July of any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. In Texas, the average temperature was 3.1° F above the 20th century average, making it the warmest January-July on record.
To examine how these recent temperature patterns compare with temperatures over the last 30 years, Environment Texas researchers analyzed temperature data from 255 major weather stations in all 50 states and Washington, DC for the years 2000-2005 and the first six months of 2006. This recent data was compared to “normal” temperatures for the three decades spanning 1971-2000. Key findings include:
• Nationally, between 2000 and 2005, the average temperature was above normal at 95% of the locations, indicating widespread warming. In addition, nights are getting warmer; the average minimum (nighttime low) temperature was above normal at 92% of the locations examined.
• In Houston, between 2000 and 2005, the average temperature was 1.1° F above normal. During the first six months of 2006, the average temperature in Houston was 3° F above normal.
• In Houston, between 2000 and 2005, the average minimum (nighttime low) temperature was 1.7° F above normal. During the first six months of 2006, the average minimum temperature in Houston was 2.8° F above normal.
• In Houston, during the first six months of 2006, the average maximum temperature in Houston was 2.7° F above normal.
“Two or three degrees may not seem like much, but just like in people, a small, relatively rapid temperature rise can have serious consequences,” continued Alexander. Alexander pointed to numerous studies showing that sea levels are already on the rise, ice and snow cover are declining, and hurricanes are becoming more powerful. In Texas, unchecked global warming threatens to cause a massive rise in sea levels, inundating the Texas coastline.
To avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the U.S. must stabilize global warming emissions within the next decade, begin reducing them soon thereafter, and cut emissions by 80% by the middle of this century.
“The good news is that we already have the tools to substantially reduce global warming pollution. We just have to put the solutions to work,” said Christian Alexander.
In August, Environment Texas released a report showing how the U.S. could cut global warming pollution by nearly 20% by 2020 by making our homes, cars, and businesses more efficient, switching to renewable energy sources, and giving Americans more alternatives to driving, paired with strong, mandatory limits on global warming emissions.
“These are win-win solutions because they also will improve America’s long-term economy and energy security by reducing U.S. dependence on oil and other fossil fuels,” stated Alexander.
This summer Rep. Henry Waxman of California introduced legislation, called the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 5642), to harness clean energy solutions and reduce U.S. global warming emissions by 15% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.
“To protect future generations, Environment Texas strongly urges Representatives Al Green and Gene Green to cosponsor the Safe Climate Act, the long-term solution to global warming,” concluded Alexander.