California is burning. Without action on climate change, Texas could be next.

by | Nov 4, 2019 | Environment, Policy

An 11-day wildfire in California has scorched thousands of acres of land and forced tens of thousands to evacuate from their homes.

The shocking footage coming out of Northern California, showing large swathes of forest and residential areas ablaze, is a daunting reminder that at least for Texas, deadly hurricanes are only one challenge that the state will face.

The dangers of a similarly destructive wildfire occurring in Texas become clear when looking at wildfire rates across the country; the Lone Star State is the number one state for wildfires and only second to California for at-risk properties. 

And while the original cause of California’s fire is still unknown, state officials are confident in the climate science that has long predicted lengthier, hotter and drier seasons will result in more frequent and intense wildfires. “We’re successfully waging war against thousands of fires started across the state in the last few weeks due to extreme weather created by climate change while Trump is conducting a full-on assault against the antidotes,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday, a day before the U.S. began formally withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. 

In Texas, things may end up being even worse. Lawmakers seeking to act on climate change are not only facing down the Trump administration, but also the state’s Republican leadership which has worked to stifle bills that would better prepare the state for global warming.

Donald Falk, a forest ecologist at the University of Arizona who worked on a report that estimated that the burn areas of wildfires will double because of climate change, told KUT last year that Texas was in the “bull’s-eye of climate change” because of wildfires and hurricanes.  “The lesson from our research is very, very clear,” Falk said. “You cannot fix the fire problem without getting real and confronting climate change.” 

Climate Central, a nonprofit news site that grades states for preparedness on climate change, gave Texas a “D” when it came to wildfires (Texas flunked all other categories too, including flooding and extreme heat), citing the state’s failure to come up with a climate change vulnerability assessment or adaptation plan. According to Climate Central, Texas’ average number of days with high wildfire potential is estimated to double from 40 to almost 80 days a year by 2050.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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