Is the 2011 Texas drought the product of climate change? NASA’s James Hansen and his colleagues say it is. Most scientists choose not to link specific weather events to climate change trends, but they’ve gathered data they say shows that the 2011 heat wave that hit both Texas and Oklahoma was “a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.” Using over 50 years’ worth of temperature data, the group feels they can definitively argue that the heat wave in Texas and Oklahoma wouldn’t have occurred without global warming.
Even if you’re not ready to argue that this particular incident is a direct result of climate change, it is easy to see the enormous ramifications of the heat wave for Texas and how these effects will be felt outside the Lone Star State. Certain areas are now trucking in water as their wells run dry and as they make major decisions regarding future water use, equipment, and needs. Andrew Freedman discusses how rice production may face unprecedented restrictions, cuts and even shutdowns with the current water shortage. And it’s not just rice that’s feeling the squeeze:
“The 2011-12 drought ranks as the state’s most intense one-year drought since records began in 1895. The drought has had major impacts on agriculture in the Lone Star State, particularly for cattle ranchers, causing at least $5.2 billion in agricultural losses during 2011. This includes $1.8 billion in cotton losses, $750 million in lost hay production, and $243 million in wheat losses.”
So what does this case study of Texas tell us? It’s important to see the direct links between food, water and energy, not to mention human and national security. Andrew Winston helps make clear the links between energy, water and food, and what changes in availability and accessibility of one resource may mean for the rest of the system (ecosystem, economic, etc.). As the water supply drops and the drought cuts into agricultural production, commodities become scarce. This will have a major impact not just on individual farmers or the state of Texas, but the national economy at large.
In fact, these changes in agricultural production may have even bigger consequences, perhaps globally. A new UN report states that:
“As the world’s population looks set to grow to nearly 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially. Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new limits to supply.” (AlertNet)
With extreme weather events becoming more commonplace, such as this Texas drought, and the earth’s population continuing to grow, will the world be able to keep up with the demand for more water, energy and food? What might all of this mean for human security?