Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Texas Neighborhoods Where Climate Change Could Hurt

Nadia Siddiqui is a policy analyst at the Texas Health Institute

Dave Fehling / StateImpact

Nadia Siddiqui is a policy analyst at the Texas Health Institute

Texas needs to do more as a state to prepare its most vulnerable communities for the impact of climate change according to health researchers.

“We may face the ‘perfect storm’ in the State of Texas where the most vulnerable, low income communities, high-diversity communities are very disproportionately impacted and affected,” said Nadia Siddiqui.

She’s a policy analyst at the Texas Health Institute. It compared Texas and neighboring states on how seriously they were preparing for the potential effects of climate change: sea level rise, more frequent and more intense storms, and changes in air quality.

“In reviewing some of the adaptation plans at the state level, we find that communities are not very well addressed. Particularly, communities of color and those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate. They’re too often missing,” said Siddiqui. Earlier this month at Texas Southern University, she took part in a roundtable discussion about what could be done to help communities cope.

The Skeptics of Texas

Barry Smitherman is the chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas, now running for Attorney General. He is skeptical of the science behind climate change.

Photo courtesy of RRC

Barry Smitherman is the chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas, now running for Attorney General.

In an analysis last year, the group ranked Texas next to last in being proactive on things like having top-level advisory groups and a climate change plan. Of nearby states, the report ranked Arizona most prepared, Louisiana least. A national report by the Natural Resources Defense Council had similar findings.

Texas leaders have been vocal in their skepticism that climate change is real.

“Don’t be fooled — not everyone believes in global warming” was a tweet from earlier this summer from state’s head of gas & oil regulation, Barry Smitherman.

For those who do believe climate change is a real threat, Texas is a tough sell.

“Just using the term climate and talking about climate change is very difficult in this state,” Siddiqui told StateImpact.

Neighborhoods Most Vulnerable to Climate Change


Dave Fehling / StateImpact

A truck wash near the Port of Houston

The report by the Texas Health Institute took demographic data on income and race and crunched it with geographic data showing  where climate change could have the most impact. Correlations emerged showing that people of the least means might face the most impact.

“If a hurricane ever came straight up the Ship Channel, it would devastate our community,” said Cruz Hinojosa, a community activist in Galena Park.

It’s a small city right up against the Port of Houston, one of the busiest sea ports in the nation and home to the biggest concentration of refineries and chemical plants. Climate change not only might increase the odds of devastating storms, it might also increase their flooding potential because of rising sea-levels.

Cruz Hinojosa is a community activist in Galena Park, east of Houston

Dave Fehling

Cruz Hinojosa is a community activist in Galena Park, east of Houston

Hinojosa said it’s important for government to be proactive and work with places like Galena Park because so many residents are of modest incomes and have their hands full trying to make ends meet. Many he says are immigrants.

“They don’t speak English and they really don’t understand what that means. No entiendo que dice eso,” said Hinojosa, talking about the reaction he gets when talking with residents about climate change and sustainable communities.


  • mememine69

    But science hasn’t agreed on anything beyond just “could be” a crisis so why are you telling us they agreed it “will” be a crisis when they didn’t as not one IPCC warning says anything beyond “could be” a crisis?

    • Paul, that is how science works. You will never hear a scientist say a
      prediction WILL happen, but rather he or she will assess the PROBABILITY
      of it happening. At this point, the likelihood of a 2 degree shift in
      the next century is to the point of near certainty. Dick Cheney once
      said of a terrorist threat, if there is a 10% chance of a catastrophic
      even occurring, we must treat it as a certainty and act accordingly. Why
      is it that conservatives do not follow this advice when the outcome
      could MUCH more dire than any individual terrorist attack?

    • Jason McCullough

      mememine69 (cool name, especially if it is derived from the song ‘Across the Universe’. Anyway, crisis is coming. A bad one.

      are simple things. I don’t need my degrees in Physics and Mechanical
      Engineering so see that we pollute enough to damage the earth. It is not hard
      to calculate the volume of the atmosphere, the amount of CO2 and methane
      emitted by farming and industrial activities – and then come to the
      understanding that we are increasing these components of our atmosphere, as
      well as acidifying and warming the oceans.

      If you do not believe the leading scientists of the world that our CO2
      emissions and methane emissions warm the earth – then here is a simple
      experiment designed for elementary school students that you can do yourself: http://www.rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/jesei/co2green/home.htm

      • Jack Wolf

        She’s a paid bot.

  • Jason McCullough

    At least much of Texas has a fighting chance to make it to the end of this century – unlike Florida where elimination is certain.


    The US Army Corps is currently using 5 feet of sea level
    rise by 2100 for their estimates. Some recent data indicates it may be between
    6-9 feet, conservative estimates at 3 feet. So, likely sometime between 2050
    and 2100 most of Florida will be gone. However, just one foot more (there have
    been 8 inches due to human-induced global warming already) and many cities will
    have unsolvable problems, as the sea level rise increases the salinity of the
    groundwater. Also, most of Florida is limestone which is very porous – so it
    will do no good at all to try to build walls to stop this.

    Your best bet is to get out now. If you wait, you will find that mortgage and
    insurance companies will no longer choose to be involved – so you won’t be able
    to sell to anyone that needs a mortgage to buy. At that point (this will likely
    be by 2020), your market for selling a home will be reduced to climate deniers
    with a lot of cash.

    When Florida is abandoned, 10s of millions of jobs will end up being lost.
    Compare that to the 40,000 coal miners of today.

    • Jack Wolf

      Now that scientists indicate a 4C rise by 2050, no one, including and maybe especially Texas, may make it to 2100.
      Pittsburgh is a nice place. And, it’s placed on the southern edge of the habitably zone. Now for the good news: Washington DC isn’t.

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