(April 8, 2020)
Houston is widely recognized as the oil and gas capital of the world. But one Rice University professor claims the effects of climate change in Houston could be devastating.
With a population that has grown by around 11 percent since 2010, the center of the booming energy sector in Texas appears to have a bright future – even if the sharp fall of oil prices and the spread of the new coronavirus over recent weeks have reduced short-term production and investment plans for many big players.
But for environmental lawyer Jim Blackburn, a much more long-term problem confronts Houston: climate change. The 72-year-old Rice University professor maintains that the city is headed for disaster unless more is done to combat greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the environment.
Blackburn, who has a long record of challenging energy and plastics companies for their environmental impact on the local area, believes that urgent action is required to protect the city’s industrial facilities.
Many plants where oil and other chemicals are stored would struggle to cope with a 15-feet storm surge, he argues. But it would only take a mild category 4 hurricane to produce a storm surge of 25 feet, which according to one study could cause over 100 million gallons of oil to be spilt into Galveston bay.
“If this storm comes, this will be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history,” warned Blackburn.
This is just one of the problems identified by Blackburn, who argues that politicians and businessmen in Houston and Texas more broadly are failing to take the issue of climate change seriously.
“Denial, denial, denial, that’s been the mantra,” Blackburn told the Financial Times. “I can’t argue climate change at the state level because we’ve got a governor who doesn’t admit to it, a lieutenant-governor who doesn’t admit to it, and a legislature that’s dominated by the oil and gas industry, so they won’t accept it.”