Robert Mace (left), Executive Director and Chief Water Policy Officer, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (right) announced a $2 million federal approriation fund for research on climate change at the Meadows Center on Monday. Daily Record photos by Lance Winter
Addressing climate change: Rep. Doggett announces federal appropriation for climate change research
New federal funds to help fuel climate change research, and an action plan to protect Texas water, was unveiled at the Meadows Center alongside the banks of Spring Lake. Rep. Lloyd Doggett joined Robert Mace, Executive Director and Chief Water Policy Officer, at the Meadows Center on Monday making the announcement.
“I am pleased to announce today that I’ve secured a $2 million federal appropriation for the important research that is done here by Dr. Mace and his team at the Meadows Center,” Doggett said. “This is directed specifically at the impact of climate change on Texas surface water and groundwater and provides mapping and related materials which our local leaders can use to prepare for and mitigate the harm of climate change to our water resources.”
Doggett emphasized it was not a federal grant. It is a specific appropriation that he requested because of the urgency of our addressing the climate crisis.
“Growing up here in Central Texas myself, I remember summers in which the only temperatures are hot and hotter. The only problem now is they’re just hotter and hotter,” he said. “We have had a May in which we’ve had the hottest ever temperatures and now a cool down in our weather, like this week, is when temperatures drop to only 98 or 99.”
Doggett said heat is also driving energy use.
“We know the challenges and the questions so many families have as to whether air conditioning will be on when we need it most in coming months” Doggett said. “We’ve had more 100-degree days already, before the official start of summer, than last year. Our local meteorologists tell us that conditions are only going to be more challenging going ahead.”
Doggett said it was important to recognize that communities of color are bearing a greater share of the suffering from what’s happening with the climate crisis, citing last year’s “deep freeze” and power grid failure.
“We of course are living with the consequences of the climate crisis with parched fields because of the drought, dried out riverbeds and wildfires that have been blazing across not only the West but here in Texas as well,” Doggett said. “If we fail to act, we can expect even hotter and drier days. I think we face a future with a Texas that looks more and more like the Sonoran Desert through much of our state and in this region. The number of days per year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit is expected to increase from 100 to 150 days during the lifetime of my granddaughters.”
Doggett said there are too many people that have what’s called Climate Grief. He said it’s estimated that about 40% of Americans think we can’t do anything about the climate crisis.
“What we’re about is trying to turn fear into action to respond to these challenges,” he said. “That’s why the work that is underway already here at the Meadows Center is so important. The old maximum we’ve heard so often through the years in Texas, ‘whiskey is for drinking if water is for fighting,’ remains very true and will be more so in even hotter and hotter Texas.”
Mace called the funding “transformative” as he thanked Doggett for his efforts.
“Congressman Doggett mentioned the hotter temperatures. It’s not only miserable, but it has serious consequences for the water resources for our people, our economy and our environment,” Mace said. “Hotter temperatures mean higher evaporation rates and greater use of water by plants; this results in drier soils. Drier soils mean there’s less water running off the landscape into our streams, rivers and lakes, and less water trickling down to our aquifers which means less water feeding our springs.”
Mace said rainfall events that in the past would have produced a runoff event to put water into the rivers and the reservoirs no longer do so in the hill country.
“That’s due to the increasing temperatures that we’re seeing. Austin, the only Texas community directly planning for climate change effects in their water resources, projects that we’ll only be able to rely on but 50% of the water we can get today from the Colorado River in 100 years, so we’re expecting to see our water resources decline with time,” said Mace. “Currently, Texas communities, especially small and disadvantaged ones, do not have the information they need to respond to how climate change will affect their water resources, nor do they have the resources to get that information.”
Mace said thanks to Doggett, this funding will support an ambitious project here at the Meadow Center to provide Texans, from policymakers at the capitol, to regional water authorities, to communities to citizens the information they need to make informed decisions about their water resiliency under a changing climate.
The work has three primary objectives. No. 1: To use taxes in water-specific climate projections to quantify how much climate change affects our water resources.
No. 2: To identify options for the state regional water planning groups and other water authorities’ communities and citizens to consider when addressing climate change and water resource resiliency.
And No. 3: To educate policymakers and the public on what we find out.
“A key goal is to get that research actionable and out to the people to make Texas a better place,” Mace added. “This is a five-year project and we’re deeply thankful to the Meadows Foundation for their leadership on this topic and for helping us get started in our first year. Thus far we’ve developed the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills aligned to climate curriculum for K through 12 students.”
Mace said they’ve developed a climate dashboard for Texas and worked with the state climatologist to identify the best climate models to address Texas water issues under the changing climate.
“This current funding that we receive with the help of representative Doggett will allow us to develop the Texas specific climate projection information, develop the policy frameworks, and get us started on assessing impacts to water supplies,” Mace said. “We still have much work to do, but it’s critical for us to do this work to ensure the resiliency of Texas.”