Keep San Antonio cooler

December 1, 2018

It was a summer night in the Alamo City. Aug. 18, 2014. And the temperature was 88 degrees Fahrenheit in the center city, but 68 degrees way out in bucolic Bulverde.

That 20-degree difference is a stark example of the “urban heat island effect.” This is when heat is trapped in a city’s core, often thanks to impervious cover, making that area significantly warmer than outlying communities. Impervious cover is a man-made surface that doesn’t absorb rainfall and absorbs and reflects heat, depending on the surface. These include rooftops, patios, driveways, streets, parking lots and sidewalks.

This disparity highlights the need for impervious cover limits on any new development across the region, but it also highlights the importance of the city’s forthcoming Climate Action Plan. San Antonio is getting warmer and warmer.

Average temperatures here have climbed by about 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1880s, according to numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Over that period, San Antonio has experienced more and more triple-digit days.

A warmer San Antonio means environmental challenges: worsening air quality, higher levels of ozone, drought, water insecurity and more extreme weather. But there is also a human and economic cost. Extreme heat deaths. Limited work outside. Higher energy costs. Disasters bogging down trade.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg made this Climate Action Plan a policy priority when he took office. A draft plan will be released in January and should provide a critical road map to help keep San Antonio cooler.

Of this plan, District 6 City Councilman Greg Brockhouse recently said, “I’m all for saving the planet. But how much is it going to cost?”

A better question is how much will it cost San Antonio to not mitigate warming? A recent federal report paints climate change as a looming economic disaster. Moody’s has warned of credit downgrades.

Climate change is a global issue, which means it is a local one.

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