Texas and Global Warming – How can we adapt to what’s already happening?

Green building
Michael Lewis

Former Clean Air and Water Advocate, Environment Texas

This article is part of a series highlighting the science on how global warming is impacting Texas, the largest sources of pollution, solutions for cutting emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and steps for adapting to those climate changes which are now inevitable.

Read our full report HERE

Climate change is no longer up for debate. It is here, it is happening, and it is already having devastating impacts. While we must continue to fight against a worsening climate, it is not enough to be thinking about how to mitigate the effects of climate change somewhere down the
road. We also have to confront and adapt to the consequences already impacting Texas. Here are three things we can do.

Increasing tree cover

Of the major impacts of climate change is that the world is getting hotter, and cities experience what is known as the urban heat island effect. Buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb more heat than natural bodies, making dense cityspaces substantially warmer than surrounding areas.

One way to help cool cities off is to plant trees, which provide shade, deflect solar radiation, and release moisture into the atmosphere. Various cities around Texas are looking to increase tree cover to cool down and reduce further emissions. The City of Dallas is implementing an Urban Forest Master Plan, the City of Austin has set itself the goal of at least 50% citywide tree canopy cover and the adoption of a “no net loss” policy, and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department is planning a Legacy Tree Program to propagate native seedlings and is developing a tree nursery.

Increasing green infrastructure

Green infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with increased tree cover, but has greater variation in its application. Green infrastructure is a range of measures that allow for greater filtration, absorption, and even reuse of rainwater. Examples include green roofs, layers of vegetation on conventional roofs that help reduce stormwater runoff and cool cities; rainwater harvesting, the collection of stormwater runoff for non-potable processes; urban forestry, the management of trees and plants in developed areas, and more. Austin, Dallas and Houston all include green infrastructure in their city-wide plans for climate adaptation and resilience, with each city looking to adapt the myriad of measures included in green infrastructure to best fit their city. As climate change brings heavier storms and increased flooding, green infrastructure will be an important part of reducing flooding and risks to human life and property.

Cooling centers

Texas is getting hotter as climate change shifts weather patterns, and the electric grid is being placed under increasing pressure to perform as Texans look to cool off. One way that cities are adapting to this are cooling centers and promoting air-conditioned public facilities as places where people can escape the heat. Austin has 48 cooling centers set up throughout the city to offer people places to escape the heat, a critical service as early numbers suggest at least 10 people had died due to heat-related issues as of June 2022. Early July 2022 saw the City of San Antonio urging residents to take advantage of cooling stations to cool off and avoid the worst health-implications of the extreme heat rolling across Texas.


Michael Lewis

Former Clean Air and Water Advocate, Environment Texas

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