Texas Cities Turn to Nature Solutions to Slow Climate Change

Texas is all too familiar with climate change’s wrath—scorching heat waves, intense downpours, devastating wildfires, and expensive infrastructure damage. However, as Earth’s climate continues to warm, these changes in weather patterns are the most extreme for the 80% of Texans living in cities.

According to Dr. Kathy Jack, the Texas Climate Program Director at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), “impervious surfaces for roads, parking lots, and buildings can drive the urban heat island effect,” making flooding, air quality, and weather conditions more dangerous and unbearable. 

Take the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, for instance. ClimateCheck projects that Dallas will experience an average of 39 days a year that exceed triple digits by 2050. In 2023 alone, North Dallas boiled in that heat level for 55 days, 21 days consecutively in the summer. 

Consequently, there has been an increase in power grid outages in the winter and summer months. Plus, limited green spaces and high-cost power bills make vulnerable communities more susceptible to illness. This lack of resources creates a troubling reality for those struggling to have their basic comfort needs met, especially children and those with health issues.   

Jack has seen how social equity disparities further complicate this environmental crisis. She says a study found that low-income neighborhoods have significantly less tree shade than wealthier areas, resulting in hotter temperatures. A 2023 heat report conducted for Dallas by CAPA Strategies monitored a maximum 10-degree Fahrenheit difference. 

While the cost of large-scale solutions and uncertain feasibility make solving climate change a daunting challenge, Jack says there are known “practical and cost-effective” methods that can improve our resilience to changing climate. 

TNC’s Texas chapter is working with partners—like Texas A&M AgriLife, community leaders, and local government—to implement nature-based solutions. These efforts include protecting and managing urban parks, investing in green spaces, and building green stormwater infrastructures to manage floods effectively. Still, it’s a race against time. 

Jack emphasizes that we’re in an “all-hands-on-deck moment” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions meaningfully, conserve land and water, change policies, and ultimately slow climate change by 2030. She says, “Texans are hardworking, innovative problem solvers. And we can do this.”