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Report: Texas Isn’t Prepared For Climate Change’s Impact

A flooded neighborhood in Houston.
David J. Phillip
Associated Press
In this Aug. 29, 2017 photo, water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods from floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. Repeated flooding events can lead to negative health impacts, like mental problems, gastrointestinal issues, drowning and other injuries.

A new report looks at how states are preparing to deal with public health issues that are worsened by climate change.

Texas is one of the most vulnerable but least prepared states when it comes to dealing with the public health impacts of climate change, according to a new report from Johns Hopkins University and Trust for America's Health.

The researchers looked at how states are preparing to deal with public health issues that are worsened by climate change. That includes issues like heat-related death and illness, as well as gastrointestinal and mental health problems stemming from increased flooding.

"Heat is one of the most basic ways that climate impacts health," said Megan Latshaw, an associate scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Heat is very much associated with climate change, and it can lead to cramping, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia, heatstroke, and even death."

Researchers analyzed publicly available documents, such as state emergency plans, to see how states were preparing.

Based on their analysis, Texas lags most other states in both identifying and preparing for these public health impacts, Latshaw said.

​"When it came to preparedness for the health effects of climate change, it seemed like Texas hadn't even identified health effects," she said. "And so neither did they seem to have identified interventions to address the health effects of climate change."

On top of not preparing, the researchers also found that Texas is one of the states most vulnerable to the environmental effects of climate change.

"Texas can have a little bit of everything when it comes to weather," she said. "You have coastlines, so you have to deal with sea-level rise. You can have wildfires, you can have flooding — the geography of Texas leads to a lot of climate threats."

Though Texas faces a wide array of climate threats, the report identified drought and severe storms as the two biggest. The report noted that Harris County had one 500-year rainfall event and two 100-year events in a span of just three years, making it hard for governments and communities to recover in between.

While the report didn’t look at specific regions in Texas, a report commissioned by the city of Houston earlier this year forecasted that the region could see hotter days and nights, longer heatwaves and heavier rainfall if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

You can view the full Johns Hopkins report, here.

Houston Public Media provided this story.

Katie Watkins | Houston Public Media