Ed Soph

Ed Soph

Denton’s current Simply Sustainable Plan, a 100-page document published in 2012 to inaugurate the city’s vision of a sustainable future, says this about climate change:

“Climate change is [on] the rise in global temperatures resulting in part from increased levels of greenhouse gases (GHG). Air quality and climate change can potentially affect the overall health of Denton’s citizens.”

A lot has happened since those words were written. Much more is known about how climate change will affect our part of the state. Potentialities are quickly becoming realities.

The Denton City Council recently made the revision of the 2012 plan a top priority in 2020. That’s good news.

Texas is already No. 1 in the nation in costly weather-related disasters. The Lone Star State has had 95 since 1980, resulting in losses exceeding $1 billion. And these numbers are not going down if ocean and air temperatures continue to go up.

Scientists at the University of Texas at Arlington project that if nothing is done to drastically reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions in the near future, the current mean August temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit will become 94 degrees with extremes rising above 120.

What does this mean? It means longer droughts and more extreme flooding events that will affect water resources for humans, livestock and food crops. It means damaged infrastructure such as homes and roads, increased insurance costs, imperiled outdoor activities, and even worse air quality and health impacts than we already endure.

Realistic and effective development guidelines are necessary to mitigate the negative economic and social impacts of climate change. Development in our city will accelerate the “urban heat island” effect unless codes mandate measures such as “cool roof” construction, xeriscaping, tree preservation and other resource and energy conserving measures.

Some Texas cities have already established climate action plans. Austin adopted the Austin Community Climate Plan in 2015 after having a report, Climate Change Projections for the City of Austin, prepared in 2014. A volunteer citizen advisory board, the Joint Sustainability Committee, was created to provide recommendations to implement the plan. And on Aug. 8, the Austin City Council passed a resolution “declaring a climate emergency and calling for immediate and coordinated mobilization by the City to address the causes and consequences of climate change and directing the City Manager to take appropriate action.”

San Antonio, in partnership with CPS Energy and UT-San Antonio, has created SA Climate Ready to develop a climate action and adaptation plan. The City Council also passed a resolution to honor the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Houston and Dallas are in the process of creating their plans.

Denton’s new plan must be a document of farsighted, science-based goals and initiatives with strict timelines for implementation and review, and with interdepartmental communication to ensure consistency and success. It must be a document that recognizes the overarching economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change upon the current and the future residents of our great city.

ED SOPH is a retired University of North Texas professor and has lived in Denton for over 30 years.

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