Houston-Galveston, Texas: Observed Trends and Projected Future Conditions

This brief report summarizes the vulnerabilities of the Houston-Galveston region of Texas to climate change. It was prepared after a 2-day workshop that looked at observed and projected impacts related to rising sea levels, storm surge, heat waves, and other extreme weather events. The report describes the unique characteristics of the region and these projected impacts.

The Houston-Galveston region is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to its population density. The area is the 5th largest in the U.S. by population size. It is also an important economic hub due to its major port and cargo hub, and its significant role in energy production for the nation. It notes that a disruption in the Houston Ship Channel can cost $300 million per day. Even more, Houston is responsible for nearly 12% of U.S. oil refining capacity, so a disruption can have cascading impacts on the U.S. energy supply.

The region's vulnerability is compounded by its aging infrastructure. The report notes that “water and sewage, roads, bridges, medical facilities, utility grids and power plants” in the region need repair or replacement.  The region is extremely hurricane prone and is already seeing increased temperatures, more extreme rainfall, and land subsidence that contribute to the region’s vulnerability. Climate change is likely to increase temperatures more, lead to more frequent droughts and extreme weather events, and put the area at greater risk of flooding due to sea level rise.

The report also briefly describes how these changes will impact human health, economic activity, property costs, fresh water availability, and ecosystem services.

Publication Date: October 2014

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