Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have put a focus on the legitimacy of climate change, something a Texas environmental activist says is definitely real. He also said people have the tools right now to help reduce global warming and move the planet to a post-petroleum society.
Luis Castilla, press officer for nonprofit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said every aspect of our lives is happening in a place that is being rapidly modified by climate change, and every element will be touched.
"Climate change is going to impact Texas in a variety of ways," he said. "The Gulf Coast is going to experience sea-level rise. Most of the state is going to experience more heat, more drought. That is going to have a cascading effect in every part of the economy."
He added that the state will see heavy losses in the agricultural sector, with utilities and insurance companies already increasing rates. "Natural disasters are costing the state billions of dollars as we have seen with Harvey," he said.
Castilla spoke Tuesday at a meeting of Friends United for a Safe Environment as part of a 20-city tour to raise awareness of climate change and what regular people and city governments can do to help. In his presentation, he said many factors are contributing to global warming and high carbon emissions, including coal plants and mining, industrial production, landfills and gas-burning engines.
During his tour, he's driving a Tesla, a 100-percent electric car. Public Citizen estimates that by 2025, electric vehicles will be as cheap as gasoline models and that by 2040, plug-in electric vehicles like the Tesla will comprise a third of cars worldwide. Most automotive manufacturers now offer affordable electric models, such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at $15,495 and the Hyundai Ioniq at $22,000.
Moving toward nonpetroleum vehicles will help, he said, but other renewable sources are available and should be put to use.
"We have the solutions today," he said. "Battery prices are coming down, and electric vehicles are becoming more cheap by the day. The prices of solar energy are coming down, as well. We have one of the highest wind energy potentials in the world. We could pretty much power our state and other states just by solar and wind."
At home, he said people can use programmable thermostats, extra insulation and energy-efficient appliances to reduce their carbon footprints. Caulking cracks and installing insulated windows in homes can also help, he said. All of these things create change, he said, with each action having a far-reaching effect, even if people don't see it immediately.
"We can transition to a post-petroleum economy," he said. "Texas is the state that's going to be most impacted by climate change. It's also one of the states that can benefit the most from climate change."
For more information on Public Citizen and the Texas Climate Change Tour, go to citizen.org.