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Critical Infrastructure

Rising temperatures, more frequent and severe extreme precipitation events, floods, droughts, heatwaves, and continued sea-level rise from climate change all threaten Texas' current and aging infrastructure1,2. As more and more people move to urban areas, the built environment becomes an even greater key to mitigating and adapting to climate change3,4,5.

Direct exposure to rising sea levels and damages from storm surges makes the Gulf Coast the most vulnerable area in Texas to climate change1,6,7. Expected increases in drought put the state's aging water pipelines at risk of failure. Combined with the projected increases in water demand, water resource management is a hyper-critical issue to consider under climate change8,9,10. Groundwater pumping, surface water collection and transport, and water use all need to be addressed. Decentralized on-site reuse strategies hold great potential to alleviate some of the demand on limited groundwater aquifers, especially during disasters and droughts11,12,13,14. Elevated coastal and urban flooding risks will require additional drainage and flood management infrastructure to be built and maintained15. Warmer conditions with less average precipitation and more intense extreme weather events speed up the deterioration of buildings, roads, pipelines, and power plants16,17. Recent extreme weather events such as Winter Storm Uri (2021) and Hurricane Harvey (2017) illustrate how the Texas water and electrical grid is ill-prepared for climate change2,18. Currently, Texas has no explicit state plan to tackle these concerns13,19. Still, local cities such as Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston all have implemented local action plans to curb their greenhouse gas emissions while preparing adaptive efforts to combat the effects of a changing climate.

Texas' power grid was built 60 to 70 years ago and was designed to last only 50 years2,20. Many Texas power plants reside along coastlines and are evaluated to be in danger of flooding from coastal storm surges21. Presently, these issues are not fully addressed18,22,23,24,25.

Focusing on marginalized and socioeconomically vulnerable groups, both urban and rural, which suffer the greatest exposure and risks to the effects of climate change, must be prioritized in current and future infrastructure plans7,26,27. Adapting all major sectors—energy, air quality, disaster response, transportation, public health, parks, and insurance programs—with climate change in mind will not only make critical infrastructure more resilient to its effects but will also enhance mitigation efforts to reduce their severity in the future1,28,29,30.

Learn more about infrastructure climate planning and its connections with the economy and public health below. 

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES): Focuses on advancing policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerating the transition to clean and renewable energy, and improving resilient adaptation to climate impacts.

Energy.gov: As fossil fuels are the driving cause of climate change through greenhouse gas emissions, priority needs to be given to the energy sector to mitigate future change and adapt to current and near-term impacts.

Georgetown Climate Center: Tracks Texas’ climate change adaptation plans and provides information to help communities prepare. They house coastal resiliency plans for the state and local reports for different cities. Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio have implemented climate action plans in recent years, with expressed commitments to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutral status by 2050.

New flood maps show US damage rising 26% in next 30 years due to climate change alone, and the inequity is stark (The Conversation

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    1. Kloesel, K., B. Bartush, J. Banner, D. Brown, J. Lemery, X. Lin, C. Loeffler, G. McManus, and others 2018. Chapter 23: Southern great plains. Impacts, risks, and adaptation in the United States: The fourth national climate assessment, volume II. U.S. Global Change Research Program.
    2. Glazer, Y. R., D. M. Tremaine, J. L. Banner, M. Cook, R. E. Mace, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Grubert, K. Kramer, and others 2021. Winter Storm Uri: A Test of Texas’ Water Infrastructure and Water Resource Resilience to Extreme Winter Weather Events. Journal of Extreme Events. World Scientific: 2150022.
    3. Bart, I. L. 2010. Urban sprawl and climate change: A statistical exploration of cause and effect, with policy options for the EU. Land use policy 27. Elsevier: 283–292.
    4. Berg, M. 2018. Peak flow trends highlight emerging urban flooding hotspots in Texas. Texas Water J. 9: 18–29.
    5. Fan, Q., K. Fisher-Vanden, and H. A. Klaiber. 2018. Climate change, migration, and regional economic impacts in the United States. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists 5. University of Chicago Press Chicago, IL: 643–671.
    6. Yang, Z., T. Wang, R. Leung, K. Hibbard, T. Janetos, I. Kraucunas, J. Rice, B. Preston, and others 2014. A modeling study of coastal inundation induced by storm surge, sea-level rise, and subsidence in the Gulf of Mexico. Natural Hazards 71. Springer: 1771–1794.
    7. Hardy, R. D., R. A. Milligan, and N. Heynen. 2017. Racial coastal formation: The environmental injustice of colorblind adaptation planning for sea-level rise. Geoforum 87. Elsevier: 62–72.
    8. Cook, B. I., T. R. Ault, and J. E. Smerdon. 2015. Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances 1. American Association for the Advancement of Science: e1400082.
    9. Cook, B. I., J. S. Mankin, and K. J. Anchukaitis. 2018. Climate change and drought: From past to future. Current Climate Change Reports 4. Springer: 164–179.
    10. Nielsen-Gammon, J. W., J. L. Banner, B. I. Cook, D. M. Tremaine, C. I. Wong, R. E. Mace, H. Gao, Z.-L. Yang, and others 2020. Unprecedented drought challenges for Texas water resources in a changing climate: what do researchers and stakeholders need to know? Earth’s Future 8. Wiley Online Library: e2020EF001552.
    11. Mace, R. E., and S. C. Wade. 2008. In hot water? How climate change may (or may not) affect the groundwater resources of Texas. GCAGS Transactions.
    12. Taylor, R. G., B. Scanlon, P. Döll, M. Rodell, R. Van Beek, Y. Wada, L. Longuevergne, M. Leblanc, and others 2013. Ground water and climate change. Nature climate change 3. Nature Publishing Group: 322–329.
    13. Olson, E. 2021. Texas Shows Us Our Water Future with Climate Change: It Ain’t Pretty. NRDC.
    14. Mace, R., and V. Puig-Williams. 2022. Opinion: How to prevent repeat water crises? Reuse is a part of the answer. Austin American-Statesman.
    15. Miller, M. M., and M. Shirzaei. 2021. Assessment of future flood hazards for southeastern Texas: Synthesizing subsidence, sea-level rise, and storm surge scenarios. Geophysical Research Letters 48. Wiley Online Library: e2021GL092544.
    16. Schweikert, A., P. Chinowsky, X. Espinet, and M. Tarbert. 2014. Climate change and infrastructure impacts: Comparing the impact on roads in ten countries through 2100. Procedia Engineering 78. Elsevier: 306–316.
    17. Allard, R. F. 2021. Climate change adaptation: infrastructure and extreme weather. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Springer: 105–116.
    18. Busby, J. W., K. Baker, M. D. Bazilian, A. Q. Gilbert, E. Grubert, V. Rai, J. D. Rhodes, S. Shidore, and others 2021. Cascading risks: Understanding the 2021 winter blackout in Texas. Energy Research & Social Science 77. Elsevier: 102106.
    19. Douglas, E. 2022. A year after the electric grid failed, Texas focuses on reliability, not climate change. The Texas Tribune. February 15.
    20. Gearino, D. 2022. One Year Later: The Texas Freeze Revealed a Fragile Energy System and Inspired Lasting Misinformation. Inside Climate News.
    21. Bradbury, J., M. Allen, and R. Dell. 2015. Climate change and energy infrastructure exposure to storm surge and sea-level rise. US Department of Energy Report to Cngress.
    22. Wood III, P., R. W. Gee, J. Walsh, B. Perlman, B. Klein, and A. Silverstein. 2021. Never Again: How to prevent another major Texas electricity failure. CGMF.org. https://www.cgmf.org/blog-entry/435/REPORT-%7C-Never-Again-How-to-prevent-another-major-Texas-electricity-failure.html.
    23. Leyden, C. 2022. Texas grid reform report card is in, and it isn’t good. Energy Exchange. February 15. https://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2022/02/15/texas-grid-reform-report-card-is-in-and-it-isnt-good/.
    24. Ramsey, R. 2022. Analysis: Whatever the campaigns say, the Texas electric grid isn’t fixed yet. The Texas Tribune. March 14. https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/14/texas-electric-grid-politics/.
    25. Runyon, J. 2022. One year after Uri: Texas energy experts weigh in on grid reforms. POWERGRID International. https://www.power-grid.com/td/one-year-after-uri-texas-energy-experts-weigh-in-on-grid-reforms/.
    26. Van Zandt, S. 2022. Natural disasters can wipe out affordable housing for years. Fast Company. February 12.
    27. Wing, O. E., W. Lehman, P. D. Bates, C. C. Sampson, N. Quinn, A. M. Smith, J. C. Neal, J. R. Porter, and others 2022. Inequitable patterns of US flood risk in the Anthropocene. Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: 1–7.
    28. Gill, S. E., J. F. Handley, A. R. Ennos, and S. Pauleit. 2007. Adapting cities for climate change: the role of the green infrastructure. Built environment 33. Alexandrine Press: 115–133.
    29. Demuzere, M., K. Orru, O. Heidrich, E. Olazabal, D. Geneletti, H. Orru, A. G. Bhave, N. Mittal, and others 2014. Mitigating and adapting to climate change: Multi-functional and multi-scale assessment of green urban infrastructure. Journal of environmental management 146. Elsevier: 107–115.
    30. Creutzig, F., P. Agoston, J. C. Minx, J. G. Canadell, R. M. Andrew, C. L. Quéré, G. P. Peters, A. Sharifi, and others 2016. Urban infrastructure choices structure climate solutions. Nature Climate Change 6. Nature Publishing Group: 1054–1056.

References

  1. Kloesel, K., B. Bartush, J. Banner, D. Brown, J. Lemery, X. Lin, C. Loeffler, G. McManus, and others 2018. Chapter 23: Southern great plains. Impacts, risks, and adaptation in the United States: The fourth national climate assessment, volume II.S. Global Change Research Program.
  2. Glazer, Y. R., D. M. Tremaine, J. L. Banner, M. Cook, R. E. Mace, J. Nielsen-Gammon, E. Grubert, K. Kramer, and others 2021. Winter Storm Uri: A Test of Texas’ Water Infrastructure and Water Resource Resilience to Extreme Winter Weather Events. Journal of Extreme Events. World Scientific: 2150022.
  3. Bart, I. L. 2010. Urban sprawl and climate change: A statistical exploration of cause and effect, with policy options for the EU. Land use policy Elsevier: 283–292.
  4. Berg, M. 2018. Peak flow trends highlight emerging urban flooding hotspots in Texas. Texas Water J. 9: 18–29.
  5. Fan, Q., K. Fisher-Vanden, and H. A. Klaiber. 2018. Climate change, migration, and regional economic impacts in the United States. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists University of Chicago Press Chicago, IL: 643–671.
  6. Yang, Z., T. Wang, R. Leung, K. Hibbard, T. Janetos, I. Kraucunas, J. Rice, B. Preston, and others 2014. A modeling study of coastal inundation induced by storm surge, sea-level rise, and subsidence in the Gulf of Mexico. Natural Hazards Springer: 1771–1794.
  7. Hardy, R. D., R. A. Milligan, and N. Heynen. 2017. Racial coastal formation: The environmental injustice of colorblind adaptation planning for sea-level rise. Geoforum Elsevier: 62–72.
  8. Cook, B. I., T. R. Ault, and J. E. Smerdon. 2015. Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances American Association for the Advancement of Science: e1400082.
  9. Cook, B. I., J. S. Mankin, and K. J. Anchukaitis. 2018. Climate change and drought: From past to future. Current Climate Change Reports Springer: 164–179.
  10. Nielsen-Gammon, J. W., J. L. Banner, B. I. Cook, D. M. Tremaine, C. I. Wong, R. E. Mace, H. Gao, Z.-L. Yang, and others 2020. Unprecedented drought challenges for Texas water resources in a changing climate: what do researchers and stakeholders need to know? Earth’s Future Wiley Online Library: e2020EF001552.
  11. Mace, R. E., and S. C. Wade. 2008. In hot water? How climate change may (or may not) affect the groundwater resources of Texas. GCAGS Transactions.
  12. Taylor, R. G., B. Scanlon, P. Döll, M. Rodell, R. Van Beek, Y. Wada, L. Longuevergne, M. Leblanc, and others 2013. Ground water and climate change. Nature climate change Nature Publishing Group: 322–329.
  13. Olson, E. 2021. Texas Shows Us Our Water Future with Climate Change: It Ain’t Pretty. NRDC.
  14. Mace, R., and V. Puig-Williams. 2022. Opinion: How to prevent repeat water crises? Reuse is a part of the answer. Austin American-Statesman.
  15. Miller, M. M., and M. Shirzaei. 2021. Assessment of future flood hazards for southeastern Texas: Synthesizing subsidence, sea-level rise, and storm surge scenarios. Geophysical Research Letters Wiley Online Library: e2021GL092544.
  16. Schweikert, A., P. Chinowsky, X. Espinet, and M. Tarbert. 2014. Climate change and infrastructure impacts: Comparing the impact on roads in ten countries through 2100. Procedia Engineering Elsevier: 306–316.
  17. Allard, R. F. 2021. Climate change adaptation: infrastructure and extreme weather. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Springer: 105–116.
  18. Busby, J. W., K. Baker, M. D. Bazilian, A. Q. Gilbert, E. Grubert, V. Rai, J. D. Rhodes, S. Shidore, and others 2021. Cascading risks: Understanding the 2021 winter blackout in Texas. Energy Research & Social Science Elsevier: 102106.
  19. Douglas, E. 2022. A year after the electric grid failed, Texas focuses on reliability, not climate change. The Texas Tribune. February 15.
  20. Gearino, D. 2022. One Year Later: The Texas Freeze Revealed a Fragile Energy System and Inspired Lasting Misinformation. Inside Climate News.
  21. Bradbury, J., M. Allen, and R. Dell. 2015. Climate change and energy infrastructure exposure to storm surge and sea-level rise. US Department of Energy Report to Congress.
  22. Wood III, P., R. W. Gee, J. Walsh, B. Perlman, B. Klein, and A. Silverstein. 2021. Never Again: How to prevent another major Texas electricity failure. org. https://www.cgmf.org/blog-entry/435/REPORT-%7C-Never-Again-How-to-prevent-another-major-Texas-electricity-failure.html.
  23. Leyden, C. 2022. Texas grid reform report card is in, and it isn’t good. Energy Exchange. February 15. https://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2022/02/15/texas-grid-reform-report-card-is-in-and-it-isnt-good/.
  24. Ramsey, R. 2022. Analysis: Whatever the campaigns say, the Texas electric grid isn’t fixed yet. The Texas Tribune. March 14. https://www.texastribune.org/2022/03/14/texas-electric-grid-politics/.
  25. Runyon, J. 2022. One year after Uri: Texas energy experts weigh in on grid reforms. POWERGRID International. https://www.power-grid.com/td/one-year-after-uri-texas-energy-experts-weigh-in-on-grid-reforms/.
  26. Van Zandt, S. 2022. Natural disasters can wipe out affordable housing for years. Fast Company. February 12.
  27. Wing, O. E., W. Lehman, P. D. Bates, C. C. Sampson, N. Quinn, A. M. Smith, J. C. Neal, J. R. Porter, and others 2022. Inequitable patterns of US flood risk in the Anthropocene. Nature Climate Change. Nature Publishing Group: 1–7.
  28. Gill, S. E., J. F. Handley, A. R. Ennos, and S. Pauleit. 2007. Adapting cities for climate change: the role of the green infrastructure. Built environment Alexandrine Press: 115–133.
  29. Demuzere, M., K. Orru, O. Heidrich, E. Olazabal, D. Geneletti, H. Orru, A. G. Bhave, N. Mittal, and others 2014. Mitigating and adapting to climate change: Multi-functional and multi-scale assessment of green urban infrastructure. Journal of environmental management Elsevier: 107–115.
  30. Creutzig, F., P. Agoston, J. C. Minx, J. G. Canadell, R. M. Andrew, C. L. Quéré, G. P. Peters, A. Sharifi, and others 2016. Urban infrastructure choices structure climate solutions. Nature Climate Change Nature Publishing Group: 1054–1056.