CLIMATE CHANGE IN DALLAS
From the Mayor
Dallas is a dynamic and vibrant city that has always handled significant challenges with a collaborative approach and an indomitable spirit. And our city’s problem-solving culture has been on full display as we have looked to address the effects of climate change. The City of Dallas released its first Comprehensive Environmental and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) on April 22, 2020 - the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day - in recognition of the need for community-oriented and data-driven solutions to the environmental challenges we face as a city, a state, and a nation.
Through the goals and concrete actions outlined in the plan, Dallas can achieve significant and measurable reductions in carbon emissions, enhance environmental quality for our most vulnerable residents, and create a more sustainable infrastructure that can withstand the negative effects of climate change.
With equity and inclusion as core values, the CECAP proposes solutions that will improve our natural environment, our educational and economic outcomes, the affordability of our housing stock, and our transportation systems.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CLIMATE ACTION IN DALLAS
Dallas residents are familiar with Texas’ extreme weather—from flooding and storms, to heatwaves and drought. By 2050, Dallas is likely to experience a 5° F increase in mean temperature during summer months if global greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase. Climate models also predict a decrease in overall annual precipitation, and an increase in the frequency, intensity, and length of severe droughts. Over the next few decades, seasonal swings in weather will be extreme, with colder, wetter winters and hotter, dryer summers. Climate change will impact every part of daily life in Dallas. Climate change will also impact the sensitive urban ecosystem balances that provide food, water and habitat to plant, animal and human life. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimates that: “Severe weather events can have a substantial human and economic cost and are likely to have a negative impact on the region’s longerterm business prospects and migration trends.”
Climate change will affect everyone, but not everyone will be affected equally—the effects of climate change will disproportionately impact communities with the least means to adapt, and who have been burdened with negative historic environmental impacts. These vulnerable communities are predominantly located in the southern and western sectors of Dallas.
The City recognizes environmental injustices of the past and elevates solutions to address them, placing equity at the center of this effort towards a more resilient future. The City of Dallas is committed to meeting the international emission reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement in 2016 and the goal to keep warming at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In 2017, Mayor Rawlings signed the Climate Mayors’ National Climate Agreement in support of the Paris Agreement. In 2019, Mayor Johnson re-affirmed the City’s ongoing commitment to protecting the community from the impacts of climate change and supporting measures to reduce GHG emissions.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN DALLAS?
The average annual temperature will increase in Dallas, especially if we do not begin to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In climate models, this is referred to as the “high emissions scenario”. Temperatures during the summer are frequently over 100°F, and by the middle of this century, we can expect about 30-60 MORE days over 100°F under the high emissions scenario. These heat waves will be more frequent, hotter, and longer than the ones we have experienced historically. Not only does this pose a health threat by heat stroke and other heat-related illness, but it also creates stagnant air conditions, resulting in poor air quality. Extreme heat also increases stress on the energy supply, and combined with cold, wet winters, will also shorten the lifespan of our roads.
Heat waves will contribute to droughts by drying out the soil and evaporating water from our reservoirs. Climate models also predict a decrease in overall annual precipitation, and an increase in the frequency, intensity, and length of severe droughts. This will strain the water supply for the region, as well as degrade the water quality of our lakes and rivers, since pollutants will become more concentrated.
It may be counter-intuitive, but severe flooding events will also become more frequent. Over the next few decades, seasonal swings in weather will be fairly extreme, with colder, wetter winters and hotter, dryer summers. It doesn’t even out, though. Most of the rainfall will occur during the spring in heavy precipitation events, and droughts will still be a problem the rest of the year.
More carbon dioxide in the air results in increased pollen production in some plants, like ragweed. This, combined with a longer growing season thanks to warmer fall and winter temperatures, can result in worsening allergies for some people. It may also trigger higher asthma and respiratory illness rates. Changing climate also results in increased risk from vector-borne illnesses (diseases that use another animal or insect as a host for part of their life cycle). We all know about the West Nile Virus, but others like the Chikungunya Virus and Chagas Disease could move into new territory as the range of the host organism expands or changes.