It’s already a sweltering summer, even for Texas. Based on long term projections effects of climate change, we will see more. It’s time for Fort Worth and Texas to get better prepared.
Heat waves cause myriad problems for residents, food and land. Over the past 20 years, Texas is second only to Arizona in heat-related deaths.
We need more aggressive water conservation strategies. Building plans should take into account even greater energy efficiency and thermal deflection. Governments need to anticipate more people needing help keeping cool and paying for their utilities. We demand better fire prevention strategies.
And yes, there is work to be done to ensure that our electrical grid can keep pace.
It’s slightly warmer in Phoenix, Arizona – we might consider learning from the folks there. The mayor has appointed a director of heat response and mitigation, someone who focuses solely on ways to deal with extreme heat.
The position focuses on protecting residents from the heat and developing long-term strategies to cool the city – two goals we undoubtedly share in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
One is to redesign the city’s heat-trapping concrete landscape by planting more trees – a simple and cost-effective way to provide more shade. Phoenix has also started to implement Fresh pavement in a handful of neighborhoods in 2020. It is an asphalt coating, often applied to areas that already need preservation, that reflects more sunlight than normal, so it absorbs less heat and compensates for the increasingly high night temperatures.
OK for now good. Cities here should consider a similar program, especially downtown and near parks.
In Las Vegas, another scorching city, residents are taking a few extra steps to protect their homes from the summer. Something often recommended there and rarely seen here is the installation of energy-efficient window accessories, such as low-e films that block certain rays, tints, and UV blockers. Such treatments keep sunlight out, lower temperatures inside your home, and reduce energy bills.
Texans who work outdoors are the most exposed to the heat. At least 53 people have died working in the Texas heat since 2010. Temperature and working hour regulations can help, but employers must recognize the need for workers to rehydrate, seek shade and, if possible, modify hours to avoid the worst heat of the day.
Unfortunately, there have already been at least two cases of children dying in hot cars in Texas this year, a common and tragic event. The Texas Heat Stroke Task Force communicates how parents can avoid this fate. The biggest tip is that parents driving with young children in the backseat place something vital they need with the child, such as a purse or wallet, to remind them that their child is with them – or to place the child’s something up front with them, like a stuffed animal or a water bottle.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety 2018 Risk Mitigation Plan, this extreme heat will cost farm workers an hour of daily productivity and reduce the yield of cotton and corn. Annual losses could total around $400 million. The agricultural sector remains vital to the Texas economy, and losses there will only contribute to our vexatious inflation.
Asking the public to reduce their electricity consumption shows that the electricity grid is at risk of falling below its excess supply safety margin. Now residents worry about power outages – periods without electricity, and in this case, air conditioning – when high temperatures are between 100 and 110 degrees. Unacceptable.
When the grid went down last year, among ERCOT’s many excuses was that the power grid was not equipped to withstand the cold; it was designed for heat only.
Now, in the middle of a Texas summer — one that got much hotter earlier, that’s true — the network is still struggling. As long as the heat drives record demand, we are at risk of blackouts. Power plants struggle with heat, skip the interview because they ran non-stop. This cannot continue if the temperatures remain the same. And if enough products fail, there won’t be enough juice to meet demand.
Governments and businesses will need to plan for higher utility costs over the long term. And we’ll have to get creative and consider ideas that might have seemed silly before. Here’s one: Does Texas need more closed sports facilities? No one wants to pay for a domed football palace, but teams are currently playing almost half the season in intense heat.
If October increasingly becomes a summer month, athletes and fans may need protection.
The school calendar, too, may need to be adjusted. Starting in August could be a huge strain if future summers match this one.
Heat is so common in Texas that we have learned to live with it and enjoy the cooler months. But that may not be enough. We must prepare in advance for increasingly hot summers. No one in Texas should have to worry about going without air conditioning or dying of heat-related illness on the job.
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Editorials are the positions of the Editorial Board, which serves as the institutional voice of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The board members are: Cynthia M. Allen, columnist; Steve Coffman, editor and president; Bud Kennedy, columnist; Ryan J. Rusak, Opinion Editor; and Nicole Russell, editorial writer and columnist. Most editorials are written by Rusak or Russell. Editorials are unsigned because they represent the consensus positions of the board, not the opinions of individual authors.
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This story was originally published July 21, 2022 3:04 p.m.