Climate Change, Houston's Hot Summer And An Extreme-Weather Future

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The heat is on in Texas and elsewhere
August was the hottest month ever in Houston. A whopping 88.7 degrees, on average, topping previous records from both 1980 and 1962 by a full three-tenths of a degree.

And while that doesn't sound like a lot to most folks, it's the kind of number that makes scientists and environmental advocates go hmmm.

On Wednesday, the group Texas Environment Texas released a report examining the link between global warming and future extreme weather events, such as heat waves, heavy rain, coastal storms and hurricanes.

"This past month's average," says Joyce Yao of Environment Texas, "was just a taste of what's to come for Texas unless we tackle global warming."

From 1948 to 2006, for instance, the United States as a whole experienced a 24 percent increase in the number of heavy precipitation events, says Yao. For Houston, the number was apparently far worse, sitting right at a 49 percent increase.

Yao is quick to point out that no single event, such as Hurricane Ike or the "Snowmageddon" that buried Washington, D.C. underneath a torrent of snow in February, can be fully blamed on global warming. However, she says, global warming does "load the dice in favor of" extreme weather.

In light of the report's release, clean-air advocates are calling on the federal government to set standards that would reduce global warming pollution, such as requiring that all new cars get 60 miles per gallon by 2025.

"Just as the Houston region has finally started to tip the scales in our decades-long battle for improved air quality," says Shae Cotter of Air Alliance Houston, "global climate change has the potential to undo much of what we have accomplished."


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