You are here

Sustainable Austin Blog

Climate change in Austin: What's being done locally, and the top three things you can do to help

Austin already has an extreme climate, and climate projections tell us that it’s going to get even more extreme. But the City of Austin is taking climate change very seriously, and there are many ways you can help. Below are the answers to questions you might have, and the top three things that would make the biggest difference to reduce Austin's carbon footprint.

How is climate change impacting Austin?

 

Impacts from climate change are already being experienced as extreme weather events. For example, during the summer of 2011, Austin had 90 days with temperatures greater than 100⁰F. That same year, wildfires destroyed homes and 32,000 acres of forest in Central Texas.

We also experienced three floods over an 18-month period that resulted in loss of life, damage to homes and businesses, and displacement of residents. From 2008 - 2015, Central Texas experienced a hydrologically unprecedented drought that severely depleted our sources of water, stressed vegetation and ecosystems, and negatively impacted water quality.

According to climate projections for Central Texas through 2100 conducted by Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, more extreme weather is projected for Austin in the form of higher temperatures, extended periods of drought, increased risk of wildfire, and more intense rain and flooding.

What is the City of Austin doing about it?

 

Mayor Adler with other leaders holding "Cities 4 Climate" sign

The City is committed to protecting the health of the community through emissions reductions that mitigate the effects of climate change. Here is what has been done, and what’s in the works:

  • City Council approved the Austin Community Climate Plan to achieve the goal of net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The final plan includes actions that will reduce emissions from energy, transportation, and materials and waste sources. Austin’s Plan also aligns with the new IPCC goals recently released by the United Nations.
    • Our publicly-owned utility, Austin Energy, has a plan to deliver 65% renewable energy by 2027. Austin Energy is on track to use zero carbon energy by 2050.
    • A plan is in progress to add 330 electric vehicles to the City’s municipal fleet by 2020. These vehicles, as well as the more than 7,000 electric vehicles in the community, can recharge at a network of over 650 public charge points powered by 100 percent renewable Texas wind energy.
    • Austin’s Zero Waste goal supports the net-zero emissions target by diverting materials from landfills.
  • Mayor Steve Adler is a member of Climate Mayors:
    • Mayor Adler signed the “We Are Still In” declaration, which commits our city to taking every action possible to achieve the principles and goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Austin is a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks.
 

How does Austin compare to other cities?

 

Austin Energy is one of the leading utilities in the nation for energy efficiency, local solar programs, and switching to renewables. Austin’s targets for recycling and efforts to increase landfill diversion also place us on the leading-edge of other U.S. cities.

Austin’s challenges:

  • 74 percent of trips to work are in single-occupancy gasoline-powered vehicles.
  • Less than five percent of Central Texas commuters use public transit.
  • Austin’s population is growing by more than 20,000 people each year, which adds about 70 cars to our roads daily.
  • The average Austinite’s carbon footprint is about 15 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year; the global average is five tons per person per year.

What additional benefits are associated with emissions reduction?

 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions provides numerous community benefits, including reduced energy costs, improved energy security, better air quality, improved health, job creation, less traffic congestion, protected ecosystems, enhanced disaster preparedness, and more.

What are the top three ways you can help?

 

Grey and white graphic of feet

#1: Rethink your transportation habits

We all know that traffic congestion in Austin is a huge challenge. But, did you know that by 2030 vehicle emissions will be Austin's #1 source of greenhouse gas emissions? For people with long commutes, driving less might have the biggest impact. Here are some things you can do:

  • Drive your gas-fueled car less.
  • Take public transit at least once a week.
  • Carpool to work at least once a week.
  • Offset the impact of your air travel using the Good Traveler Program

 

Grey and white graphic of light bulb

#2: Use less energy

Reducing your electricity usage by 10% could reduce your carbon footprint by one ton per year. Using your air conditioner less, unplugging appliances when they aren’t in use, and switching to LEDs are great ways to do this. Switching to a smart thermostat can help you avoid nearly 1,500 pounds of emissions, and you can get a large rebate through Austin Energy.

 

Grey and white graphic of recycling symbol

#3: Keep stuff out of the landfill

If you toss recyclables and organics in with your trash, more stuff ends up in the landfill. When organic materials like food scraps end up there, methane is created. In the short term, methane creates 86 times more warming than carbon dioxide. You can help by keeping as much stuff out of the landfill as possible. Recycle and compost most of what you throw out.

Join the Mayor’s Carbon Reduction Challenge

 

As part of Climate Change Awareness Month, the City is hosting a community-wide carbon reduction challenge from Oct. 23-30 using Austin’s Rethink/ mobile app. The app tracks greenhouse gas emissions avoided as a result of the things you do.

Rethink/ app icon

For the challenge, we’ve set a collective community-wide goal of 50,000 pounds of emissions avoided during the eight-day challenge. This is the equivalent of the volume of Barton Springs pool. If you’re one of the top greenhouse gas reducers, you could win one of five great prizes: an e-bike, vertical garden, compost tumbler, transit pass, or rainwater cistern. Download the app now, and you’ll automatically be entered into the challenge and notified when it starts.

 

 

Tagged: climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, Office of Sustainability, conservation

More Blog Posts

Net-Zero Hero: Tom Meyers

I’m helping to make Austin...

Tagged: solar energy, Net-Zero, net zero hero, solar panels, food trucks

About this blog

News, ideas, and inspiration from the Office of Sustainability, to help advance a Bright Green future for Austin.

Tags

roots and wings

Sustainability

bicycle

featured member

sustainable

eNewsletter

net zero

library

emissions reduction

staff engagement

sustainability tips

grow zone

green

non-profit

new central library

net zero hero

solar energy

high school

co2

Plug in partners

Office of Sustainability

green schools showcase

mobility

super bowl 50

landscape

urban forestry

city of austin employee

st. andrew’s episcopal school

tips

ronda rutledge

watershed protection

Austin Mobility

water quality

Central library

Water conservation

health

make austin greener

seed bank

giving back

seaholm power plant

vegetable garden

charging

rethink

climate

electric vehicle

key performance indicators

energy efficiency

Education

HNTB

transportation

super bowl

garden

butterfly

City of Austin

st. andrew’s

beat the heat

zero emissions

recycle

21st century America

pet waste

healthy corner stores

waste diversion

agbl

earth month

flooding

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin.

volunteer

design

herb garden

smart bench

rethink app

water preservation

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. sustainability

kpi

green schools

alternative transportation

2015

monarch butterfly

green challenge

net-zero heroes

austin green business leader

heat

litter control

complete communities

Watershed

mobile markets

Composting

healthy living

erosion

seaholm ecodistrict

food

soofa

led

city sustainability

green building

bus rider

grant recipients

trees

go green

green business

summer

leaf

scoop the poop

farm stands

green cup challenge

Green is the New Black

earth month tips

rain gardens

recycling

Seaholm

compost

soofa bench

rethink challenge

energy

environment

architecture

reuse

august martin jr

Melissa Rothrock

bgfg

bike commute

food trucks

Austin Energy

food planning

profile

mall

greenhouse gas emissions

urban farms

green habits

huston tillotson university

water

yellow bike project

walking

austinites

upcycle

capital metro

Bright Green Future

bike

solar panels

food insecurity

suburb

sxsw

Farmshare

carshandra hollins

save

conservation

bicycling

springtime

sharon mays

bus

Waste not challenge

tree farm

lighting

north central austin

neighborhood

e-waste

GAVA

earth day

local food

solar

ecodistrict

save money

environmentaustin

Austin

generation net-zero

Net-Zero

bailey middle school

rundberg

redevelopment

carbon footprint

community gardens

gardening

open data

zero waste

recycled reads

bright green future grant

public affairs

crockett

leadership

dell

fresh for less

community

austin interfaith network

dashboard

holiday

austin public library

george cofer

University of Texas

lanier

business

aisd

congregation beth israel

goals

pilot

heidi tse

transporation

biking

family friendly

Calder Kamin

lbj

blog

events

restaurant

austin parks

food for all

challenge

redevelopment; code

climate change

conferences

electric drive

Eco-Friendly Tips

reduce carbon footprint

seniors

artist

connected

festivals

healthy

Baldwin Elementary

austinties

4th of July

bike month

children

compact

austin city limits

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. green

reclaimed water

renewable energy

local business

breathing

sustainability accomplishments

Zero Waste Block Leader

seton

rebate

formula 1

halloween

purple pipe

wildlife

bryony gomez-palacio

austin business

air

small business

Goodwill

catalina berry

urban trails

eastside memorial high school

austin fire department. climate resilience

restoration

Dustin Fedako

green choice

holidays

how to ride the bus

ozone

year in review

lisa apfelberg

batteries

eastside memorial

chickens

electric

visiting austin

recycling tips

wildfire

kids

pat bulla

mopac mobility bridges

food recovery

air quality

keynote

chief sustainability officer

tour

tourism

austin resource recovery

resilience

whole life learning center

family

dale bulla

pedestrian

golden-cheeked warbler

joseph de leon

gallons saved

upcycled

green business leaders

Net Zero Carbon emissions

bill nye

diy

lucia athens

biophillic cities

recipes

learning

Nature

low flow

gift bows

reagan high

Austin's food system

science

green visitor

greenchoice

autumn

hiking

birds

wrapping paper

eco-audit

reagan high school

Award

local food system

Austin Energy Regional Science Fest

fall

gus garcia

castle hill

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. earth day

school

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. sustainable

pumpkin

shoal creek trail

capmetro

gift ideas

food policy

donations

michael harris

Healthy Austin

violet crown trail

Food Waste

metrorapid

farmers market

SXSW Eco

student showcase

grant

animals

good food purchasing

thor harris

green operations and maintenance

community and outreach

applied materials

local produce

presentation

how-to

outdoors

reclaimed wood

sustainable business

trails

fitness

local farms

city hall

texas

local

green spaces

sealab

Austin Animal Center

electricity

wellness

back to school

farms

weather

Music

foundation communities

2016

animal

farming

nominations

valentine

stay cool

musican

Mendez Middle School

resource management

agriculture

nominate net-zero hero

ecorise

valentines day

activities

cool pavement

greenbelt

Mueller

sustainability education

the science guy

texas women in agriculture

nominate

Sameer Pusapaty

green roof

McKinney/York

water efficiency

Texas women

net-zero hero 2016

party tips

family events

green operations

safety

creek protection

infrastructure

amy stansbury

2017

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January