Today’s politics have trained us to think that we’re always divided and that most big decisions are based on political posturing. Sadly, President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord appeared to be another example of this unfortunate political reality.
But Texans have always been practical.
And since the announcement, we are seeing something different, inspiring, and yes, practical. Elected officials, private companies and individuals are banding together to send a different, non-partisan, non-political policy message.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors strongly opposed the president’s decision and vowed that the nation’s mayors would continue their practical commitment to addressing climate change. Already, 187 mayors have publicly renewed their commitment to the climate agreement. In Texas, the mayors of Houston, Dallas, Smithville and Austin have joined that coalition.
Others will follow because addressing climate change creates positive outcomes beyond politically stereotyped environmental results. For example, in Central Texas, we have one of the first cities in the country to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. And, yes, it dramatically reduces the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, which has a positive impact on climate change.
But this isn’t some liberal, tree hugging, even “weird” city pursuing this policy. I’m not talking about Austin. I’m talking about Georgetown, Texas, Austin’s far more politically conservative neighbor to the north.
Georgetown provides competitively priced energy for its citizens, even saving them money. And, at the same time, it’s having a positive impact on climate change.
The private sector is weighing in. Dow, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, IBM, 3M, Apple, Space X and Facebook all have significant operations in Texas and all have opposed the withdrawal from the Paris Accord. These companies recognize that addressing the impacts of climate change is good for business, and many have indicated they will continue to work for a resilient future.
Our energy market in Texas is already moving toward the future. The state made a policy decision over a decade ago to support clean energy, and natural market forces continue this trend. If Texas were a country, it would rank 4th in the world for wind energy.
We are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change on our lives, economy and environment. The drought of 2011 cost our state more than $8 billion in agricultural losses alone. And widespread floods in 2015 tragically killed dozens and caused an estimated $3 billion in damages. According to The Risky Business Project, yearly losses from hurricanes and other coastal storms in Texas will likely jump to $648 million by 2050. It’s in our best interest to take action and address these problems.
Texans are sensible, practical and wildly inventive. We’re at our best when we recognize that addressing big problems can give us benefits beyond just solving the one problem we face.
Acting on climate change is not just about defending against loss; it’s about scoring great gains in our economy and in our communities. Investing in nature-based solutions, energy and water efficiencies, and renewable energy will bring cleaner air and water. These investments will also bring more jobs, more consumer choice, more resilient communities and better health.
For Texans, this isn’t political, it’s practical.
Laura Huffman is state director for The Nature Conservancy in Texas and founding director of the Conservancy’s North America Cities program, created to support cities as they integrate natural infrastructure into local planning and development. Follow her on Twitter @laurajhuffman. She wrote this for TribTalk, a digital forum for dialogue and debate about the day’s news and a product of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization. Learn more at http://TribTalk.org.