City’s Climate Plan Will Be Pricey, But How Much Would No Plan Cost?

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Children climb to the highest point of the newly installed playground. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Children climb to the high point at Pearsall Park, which was formerly a City dump.

The climate in San Antonio has been intense in the last two weeks – meteorologically and politically.

First there was the wild storm that produced 3,500 lightning strikes and 70-mile-per-hour winds, leaving up to 250,000 CPS Energy customers without power and hundreds of downed trees. Two more storms since then have echoed the first, including ones Sunday night and Monday that featured a spectacular lightning show and heavy rains and knocked out power for more than 20,000 CPS customers.

Two days after the first storm came an election in which the incumbent mayor, who has championed an aggressive plan to combat global warming, barely beat a challenger whose climate action plan was to plant thousands of trees, something the city had already been doing.

Then came a rally in Main Plaza by a coalition of liberal groups demanding City Council action on climate change and a panel discussion at the Central Library hosted by a conservative group opposing such efforts.

“Do y’all know how much the plan costs?” said panelist Rafael “Rafa” Bejar, a director of outreach at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Because if you do, please tell me.”

Never mind that TPPF, the group that sponsored the panel at the library, was founded by Dr. James Leininger, the conservative San Antonio billionaire, and has received millions from the Koch Brothers, among other oil interests. The question asked by Bejar is important. Very important.

Here’s another very important question: What would it cost not to address the consequences of a warming planet?

The plan being considered by City Council doesn’t include dollar figures because at this point it is setting goals, not authorizing programs. Only after specific measures are studied will cost estimates be possible. Unquestionably they will be expensive.

But failing to slow the warming of the planet also will result in new challenges that will need addressing. Some of those challenges are detailed in the latest National Climate Assessment, a periodic massive coordinated study by federal agencies that was mandated by law in 1990. The fourth report was issued last fall. Like the city’s plan, it does not give dollar figures for the consequences of inaction, but it does lay out some of the challenges, and they, too, will be expensive.

The assessment includes a chapter on what it calls the Southern Great Plains, including Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The assessment expects a significant rise in temperatures in the next 80 years if greenhouse gases are not curbed, with South Texas adding 40 more 100-degree days at the low end of estimates and 100 more days reaching 100 degrees at the high end. The report predicts longer droughts and fewer but more intense and damaging storms, producing more floods as warmer temperatures put more water into the atmosphere. As a result, here are a few of the many challenges we will face:

  • Longer droughts will have a major impact on the farm economy and the food supply for a growing population. During one year in the most recent drought “planted acres of rice in Matagorda County, Texas, dropped from 22,000 acres to 2,100 acres. The ripple effect on the local economy was severe, with a 7 percent decline in sales of farm implements and machinery. Some family-owned establishments that had survived for decades closed permanently. Irrigation strategies shifted from river-based to pumping water from the Gulf Coast Aquifer, and dozens of new wells were drilled. Drilling water wells then resulted in declining groundwater levels, adding stress to water levels that had historically been falling in the region.”
  • A record drought in 2060 “would result in as much as half of the state’s population facing a water supply shortage.” Water would become more expensive. Damage to water infrastructure and to roads would increase. And wet periods followed by droughts would increase wildfires such as those that struck Bastrop in 2011, destroying more than 1,500 homes.
  • Increased flooding would eclipse the $2.6 billion in damage done in Texas and Oklahoma in 2015. In addition, more frequent severe floods would stress dams in Texas. In 2017 the American Society of Engineers gave Texas dams a “D” for safety, with thousands in need of repair.
  • Roads will need upgrades to deal with heat and flooding. Asphalt roads, for example, will need improved binders. Bridges will also need to be fortified for extreme heat.
  • Health costs will rise considerably. For example, a heat wave in 2011 led to a 3.6 percent increase in emergency-room visits. Mosquitoes, ticks, rodents, and fleas that transmit a variety of human diseases will flourish. Look for more dengue virus, chikungunya virus, and Zika virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • The economic impact on East Texas with its refineries, petrochemical plants, and other assets being threatened by rising Gulf waters and more powerful hurricanes will be even greater, with considerable consequences for the entire state. One example: San Antonio faced a gasoline shortage after Hurricane Harvey disrupted the supply chain.

These are just a few of the factors that will bring huge price tags if climate issues are not addressed. You can read the National Climate Assessment report on our region at https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/chapter/23/.

The impacts will be more than economic, of course. The Pentagon, for example, considers the issue to be one of national security, predicting global unrest from weather events and migration as a result of climate change. And there is the moral issue of what kind of a planet we are leaving to our heirs.

But if the Texas Public Policy Foundation wants to focus on costs, I say do it. Just count the costs of inaction as well as action.

11 thoughts on “City’s Climate Plan Will Be Pricey, But How Much Would No Plan Cost?

  1. Recently I watched a demonstration on local news of a project at SWRI where CO2 was used as a fuel, not as a result of a fuel. The reporter asked to be sure he was hearing correctly. I can remember when better engines were discussed years ago, and rumors of them being hidden by those who didn’t want the change. I believe those whose future (oil and gas, e.g.,) is at stake, need to show us all that the future could involve them if they were ready to unravel products that improve the atmosphere rather than ruin it.

  2. Good job, Rick Casey! Too bad space restrictions prevent identifying all of the costs to our community from increased heat, drought and flooding.

  3. The 1 million or more people moving into town soon will probably undermine the initiative to help our environment. Not saying don’t do it but let’s be real. More houses, bigger schools going to be built, universities planning to expand, rain runoff going downhill to center of city, more energy needed, more food consumed etc.

    • The city’s Draft Mitigation Plan says nothing about the direct role the city has played in artificially spiking up carbon emissions, stemming from their urban planning model, which calls for aggressive physical growth & heavy subsidized development, translated as a marker of our “success”, a “city we can all be proud of”. A viable alternative to combat this scenario is to replace their old, limited, narrow model focusing on the built environment & adopt a socioeconomic framework by which to reverse downward indicators, to the extent possible. The result of their old planning construct is that it has led us to become nationally ranked in economic segregation, but who cares when we are on our way becoming a “world class city”.

  4. I think air castles are great too, but someone needs to turn up the evidence that you can provide enough energy to maintain a city of our size on renewable energy. Right now it’s not possible outside of fossil fuel sources or nuclear. Are people pitching nuclear? Cuz if you’re not, then you’re talking about disbanding cities of over 50k. Is that the plan? Also, not only is the cost astronomical you can’t manufacture the technology that’s required for solar and wind without massive manufacturing and mining in traditional CO2 generating industries. So, to recap, it’s not possible and the attempt would massively increase CO2 emissions.

  5. Another hit piece by Rick Casey. He exaggerates the cost and threatens the boogeyman of we don’t address his version of climate change. However, he still refuses to state the cost/lifestyle changes necessary to implement weird science CO2 reduction policies.

  6. Mr. Casey said or quoted someone else with this scare: “What would it cost not to address the consequences of a warming planet?”

    The important thing to realize is that the progressive environmentalism zealots have given us four names to their “the Earth is dying” since 1975: ice age, global warming, climate change and sustainability, all supported by data that has been disproven or found to be falsified.

    This “religions” biggest problem is looking at hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and decades of weather and trying it extrapolate it into centuries and millennia of climate, but not realizing climate has cycles like a sine curve.

    Also, weather forecasters (especially media ones) only have valid data going back to 1880 and are not climatologists.

    The sooner we have true peer review not controlled by the National Science Foundation, the more factual information can be used.

    Don’t be scared by these charlatans!

  7. Thanks for a thoughtful opinion piece, Mr. Casey.
    I agree with your perspective and appreciate the way you illustrate your case with citations we should bear in mind.
    For those who doubt the science, there is little left to say except… read and study the applicable scientific literature. The world abounds with it.

  8. Look up the book — The Politically Incorrect Guide® to Climate Change by Marc Morano. There are about 31,000 scientists that do not believe in the climate change. The Climate Change narrative is being fostered by the scientists that are getting BIG grants to study the climate at our expense.
    “31,000 Scientists Declare Al Gore a LIAR: ‘Climate Change a Complete Hoax and Scam’
    By Scott Osborn | November 15, 2017
    AS AL GORE AND HIS CLAIMS CONTINUE TO BE PROVEN FALSE AND HE CONTINUES TO BE DISCOVERED TO BE A SNAKE OIL SALESMAN, SCIENTISTS ARE NOW BEGINNING TO CALL HIM AND ALL OTHER GLOBAL WARMING ALARMISTS LIARS.
    Over 31,000 scientists disagree with Al Gore, and have come forward and stated that ‘catastrophic man-made global warming’ is a complete hoax and science lie.
    There are the more than 31,000 American scientists (to date) who have signed a petition challenging the climate change narrative and 9,029 of them hold PhDs in their respective fields.
    Many of those scientists who signed the petition were encouraged to speak out in favor of the truth after retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist John L. Casey revealed that solar cycles are largely responsible for warming periods on Earth – not human activity.”

  9. None of this matters. What about Chik-Fil-A and the rainbow crosswalk? THOSE matter more. Why aren’t you focusing on those instead of if and when we all die from 200-degree weather? Your priorities are jacked up.

  10. At the present rate of property taxes, “environmental” taxation, interest on national debt will have to increase to 100% of income within 40 years.

    Climate Change has always been with us. I don’t know if it’s worse now because honest debate is not allow. Scientist who disagree with the present montra have their research funds cut off, those who support the left’s narrative are given money. This whole debate reminds me of totalitarian states who demand compliance or be destroyed.

    I’m still open minded about this but the intolerant religious fervour of climate change activist concerns me.

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