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Texas Matters: Texans will need to adapt to the extreme heat

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There is a high probability that the summer of 2024 will be another record-breaker for heat and drought. That’s according to a United Nations’ weather agency report released this week. The World Metrological Organization is sounding a “red alert” about global warming.

The build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is raising land and water temperatures and melting glaciers and sea ice. Efforts to reverse the trend have so far been inadequate.

Last summer in Texas was already a deadly one. Over 300 people died from the heat in Texas in 2023. That’s the highest number in recorded history. These deaths include a 66-year-old postal worker delivering mail in Dallas.

So what do we do? It’s getting hotter. Heat waves are lasting longer and are more frequent. And our state government officially denies that climate change is a thing. We’ve already seen recently the largest wildfire in the state’s history.

A new report out this week highlights the health impacts of extreme heat and the disproportionate risks for certain population groups.

“Trust for America’s Health” is calling for more robust emergency preparedness.

Rhea Farberman is with Trust for America’s Health – their new report is called Ready or Not 2024: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism.

Bay Watch

A new report by the Environmental Integrity Project compiled data on every U.S. plastics plant built, expanded or proposed since 2012, revealing massive growth in Texas.

Many of these plants take public subsidies, yet many of them break environmental laws – according to the report Feeding the Plastics Industrial Complex.

This growth is a direct result of the fracking boon in Texas. Pipelines carry oil and gas to the coast, where refineries and chemical plants turn them into commercial products like plastics.

These chemical plants demand a lot of fresh water, and they also produce a lot of chemical waste that is dumped into the bays on the Texas Gulf Coast, including the Lavaca and Matagorda Bays.

Research shows a there is a ‘long-term decline of ecosystem health in Lavaca Bay’ and a coalition of over 65 groups are calling on Texas to change how Formosa Plastic is allowed to monitor its toxic discharge that it discharges.

I spoke to Diane Wilson, executive director of San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper. In December 2019, Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics for the illegal dumping of toxic plastic waste into Lavaca Bay.

Private Prisons

Harris County is paying millions of dollars to private prison companies to send hundreds of inmates out of state to reduce overcrowding in our county jail. However, as Houston Public Media's Lucio Vasquez reports, Harris County may not be able to protect those being held in private facilities with seemingly little oversight.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi