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Castro declares Climate Change Awareness Month as Texas cooks

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Welcome to the weather of the future: 106, 110, 107, day after day of scorching heat exacerbated by the worst one-year drought on record. As the mercury boils beyond all-time highs, San Antonio is greeted by Climate Change Awareness Month, 30 days to meditate on decades of human inaction on climate change and the punishing power of drought and heat. Depending on how seriously residents take Mayor Julián Castro’s proclamation this week (to have been made from the steps of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon), September could develop into a time to start charting a municipal path to averting future suffering in our increasingly cooked corner of the planet. While the Castro administration and the one preceding it have vigorously pursued carbon-lite electricity options and clean-tech jobs, neither have committed to reducing San Antonio’s greenhouse gas emissions — those emissions blamed for raising global temperatures — directly.

Recognizing the hesitance of local leaders, a middle-school science teacher started pushing at the level of committee. For all the progress that has been made in San Antonio, including the Mission Verde sustainability plan and Castro’s SA2020 values-clarifying exercise, Mobi Warren said “the actual words ‘climate change,’ it seemed like there was a feeling we couldn’t put that word out there yet.”

Yet not only did Warren find her idea for a Climate Change Awareness Month, complete with screenings of topical films at the Pearl, embraced by members of the Citizen’s Environmental Advisory Committee, but Mayor Castro quickly volunteered a proclamation when it became clear she wouldn’t be able to appear before the full council prior to September 1. To get the council to wrestle directly with the ogre of climate change remains a slow train coming.

Even as the basic science supporting human-caused climate change has constricted to a point of hard truth, non-believers still skulk about the fringe. Fox News, renegade bloggers, and two presidential candidates from Texas continue to champion an ignorance that has to be worked at. A handful of folks from this camp sometimes want to know “where’s the true Jerry North,” admits the Texas A&M climatologist who once counted himself a global warming skeptic. When the first edition of The Impact of Global Warming on Texas was published in 1995, North, one of the editors, worked to restrain some of the writings of the more “environmental” researchers. “I was extremely reluctant to get too far ahead of the game at that time,” Gerald North said. “And we did not use predictions about global climate change.”

Since that time what debate existed over the impact of human industry on the global climate has been replaced with discussions of how bad future storms and droughts will be, how soon the worst of them will arrive, and what we can do to prepare. What impresses North is how accurate some of those earliest of forecasts have been. He cites a 1988 study by Princeton’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab. “Their graphic showed they expected the storm belts to widen toward the planet’s poles. And that’s a primary reason, I’d say, for why we have the big drought this year.” (And if you want an object lesson in how drought perpetuates drought, ask the National Weather Service’s Paul Yura about the tropical storm that should have cooled Texas a couple months ago but was bled from the sky as it hit land. “In my 20 years doing this, I have never seen a tropical system dried out that quick,” he said.)

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