Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
It’s no secret San Antonio is getting hotter. This summer was one of the hottest in recent memory, with sweltering days of triple-digit temperatures and resulting strains on our water supply.
A report released on Oct. 8 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that it’s only going to get hotter. The worst impacts of uncontrolled climate change are still avoidable, but only if we take immediate and aggressive action.
Climate change is a global problem, but its causes and impacts are local. According to a recent report prepared by UTSA, San Antonio’s summer maximum temperatures will increase by an average of 4 degrees by 2040 – and we can expect 24 additional days each year with temperatures above 100 degrees. Subtract three inches of rainfall annually, and our city’s future looks both hotter and drier.
These changes will impact our quality of life. A hotter, drier future may mean fewer days for our children to enjoy playing outside. It may mean shorter recess time at schools, fewer walks with pets, and less time enjoying San Antonio’s parks, greenways, and outdoor venues.
It may mean higher utility bills as air conditioners run longer, and our neighbors without air conditioning would be at greater risk of heat-related illness and mortality. Likewise, as rising temperatures increase the likelihood of droughts and wildfires, area farmers will face additional challenges to producing crops and raising livestock.
Climate change also affects our health – especially that of our oldest and youngest residents. In particular, rising temperatures increase the risk of harmful air pollution. When San Antonio experiences ozone alert days, many residents who suffer from respiratory disease must stay indoors or risk visiting an emergency room. A 2017 City-commissioned study revealed respiratory deaths will likely increase as ozone levels rise.
Additionally, climate change threatens San Antonio’s economy. Intense heat, drought, and strong storms – another consequence of a warming climate – disrupt supply chains, damage property and infrastructure, and results in missed work days due to employee health impacts. The hailstorm of April 2016, which caused nearly $2 billion in losses, is still fresh in our memories – as is Hurricane Harvey, the $125 billion disaster that devastated the Texas Gulf Coast last year and caused an unprecedented run on gas resulting in gas stations either without fuel or lines stretching for blocks.
Despite these predictions, there is good news. San Antonio is rising to the challenge of climate change by developing a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. Our leaders, City staff, and residents have the ability, creativity, and community knowledge to develop solutions that work for San Antonians. Together, we can ensure that San Antonio remains a vibrant, thriving city for generations to come by forging our own path to climate readiness.
We’re not alone in taking action. We are among more than 400 U.S. cities who have committed to upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, an effort by 197 world nations to take immediate and aggressive action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
And we’re not starting from square one. San Antonio has already begun to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The city has prevented 170 million pounds of carbon emissions through the nonprofit Build San Antonio Green. Since 2007, Build SA Green has certified more than 6,600 homes for meeting its rigorous energy efficiency standards.
CPS Energy, which produces 22 percent of its energy from renewable sources like solar and wind, plans to generate half its electricity from these clean sources by 2040.
VIA Metropolitan Transit has transitioned 300 buses in its fleet from diesel to cleaner-burning natural gas and has just received a $2 million federal grant to expand its electric bus fleet. Local businesses have also made strides to reduce energy and water consumption. And all over the city, residents have begun exploring their own alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles, including carpooling, bussing, biking, walking – even scooting.
SA Climate Ready, a joint initiative of the City of San Antonio, CPS Energy, and UTSA, builds on these innovations by tapping into the expertise of a diverse group of community partners. These local experts have committed to advising the SA Climate Ready team on strategies for reducing San Antonio’s emissions and adapting the city to the effects of climate change
But they cannot tackle this challenge alone. We need you – San Antonio’s residents – to help us shape our plan. Your ideas will ensure that the plan reflects your priorities as we strive to keep our city strong in the face of climate change. Take action by visiting SAClimateReady.org, completing our survey, attending an upcoming open house, and sharing the website with your friends and family. You can also help spread the word on social media using #SAClimateReady.
Help us shape San Antonio’s climate solutions to ensure cleaner, more breathable air and a healthy future for generations to come.