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Wimberley flood survivors ask presidential candidate to reconsider stance on climate change

Photo by Martha Fierro

In the wake of the 2016 primaries, a group of Hays County flood survivors are asking Senator Ted Cruz to reconsider his stance on global climate change.

The group, mostly comprised of Wimberley residents, presented a petition with more than 15,000 signatures to Cruz, asking him to acknowledge rising temperatures may have contributed to an unprecedented level of flood damage.

The historic Memorial Day Weekend floods this year shocked the community, destroying over 300 homes and killing at least nine people in Wimberley.

On July 2, the group of Wimberley residents and homeowners gathered outside of Cruz’s offices in Austin after the senator refused to meet them, said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy group. Armed with signs and speeches, Metzger and the flood survivors held their own “press conference,” arguing against Cruz’s environmental policies.

Cruz considers global climate change “a hoax,” Metzger said.

Renee Boschert, Wimberley resident of 23 years and Montessori schoolteacher, said she travelled with the group to Cruz’s Austin office with the hope the senator would reconsider his stance on climate change.

“We just want him to open his mind,” Boschert said.

Cruz did not meet with the group and denied their entry to his office, Boschert said.

“(I felt) totally disappointed but not surprised,” Boschert said.

Earlier on the morning of July 2, the Austin American-Statesman published a full-page advertisement paid for by Forecast the Facts, “a grassroots human rights organization dedicated to ensuring that Americans hear the truth about climate change,” according to the group’s website.

The advertisement takes particular offense to a comment Cruz made immediately after the Memorial Day Weekend floods. The U.S. senator announced his 2016 presidential bid back in March.

“It’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster,” Cruz said in a May 27 press conference at the San Marcos Police Department after the Memorial Day weekend floods.

“It has nothing to do with politics,” Boschert said. “I don’t care what party he’s from. He’s a human from the planet and should take care of it.”

Boschert’s Wimberley home of 23 years was severely damaged in the floods, receiving five feet of water inside the first floor, she said. Boschert said the flood destroyed not only her belongings, but her irreplaceable natural treasures as well.

It brought “tears to (her) eyes” to see the 100-year-old cypress trees on the riverbank knocked down and killed, she said.

Boshcert said the flood was an atypical disaster, an “enhanced event” with unprecedented levels of damage.

The Wimberley community has come to expect regular flooding and even appreciates the cleaner, clearer river waters the floods leave behind, Boschert said.

“This was not a normal flood,” Boschert said.

Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said he is a nonpartisan researcher who thinks there is plenty of data linking human activity to climate change. Nielsen-Gammon was appointed in 2000 by then-Governor George W. Bush “to provide the state of Texas with accurate climate information and critical expertise in the field of climatology,” according to his office’s website.

“We stick to the science,” Nielsen-Gammon said.

Nielsen-Gammon said the unprecedented severity of the Memorial Day weekend floods was almost certainly connected in part to human contributions to the environment.

The atmosphere’s capacity to hold moisture is determined by temperature, and global temperature trends have most likely risen because of human activity, Nielsen-Gammon said. Hotter temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold more moisture, he said.

“Heavy rainfall is increasing through the central United States (for) the last century,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “It’s basic thermodynamics.”

In his decision to downplay the role of humanity in global climate change, Cruz has ignored facts and “cherry-picked data,” Metzger said.

“I don’t know if he’s taken the time to read the mountain of scientific research,” Metzger said.

Metzger said Cruz has cut funding from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) climatology research programs and blocked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate controls.

The EPA proposal opposed by Cruz would require power-generating facilities to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, according to Cruz’s website.

Metzger said although Cruz refused to meet with him and the flood survivors in person on July 2, they are still trying.

“We’re going to keep following up, urging Ted Cruz to meet with the survivors,” Metzger said.

Boschert said she wishes Cruz would take a lesson from her students and treat the environment with a stewardly attitude instead of “digging in his heels” and ignoring science.

Boschert said her Montessori students exhibit a natural stewardship for the environment, asking what they can do to help.

“They’re proactive,” Boschert said. “They get that their actions have an impact.”