Art by E.R. Bills

In various and fluctuating levels of awareness, we knew this was coming.

Rivers ceased to flow. Lakes and reservoirs dropped to record-low levels or dried up altogether. Maybe not every year in every region but pretty regularly over the last decade. Then Smokehouse Creek Fire in the Panhandle this past February — the largest wildfire in Texas history.

In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. In 1938, English steam engineer (and amateur climate scientist) Guy Callendar began gathering climate records from almost 150 weather stations around the world. From this data — and while completing all the calculations by hand — he demonstrated that global temperatures had risen 0.3°C over the previous half-century (which roughly parallelled the Second Industrial Revolution and its short-term repercussions). Callendar suggested that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial processes were responsible for planetary warming, but his ideas were dismissed because other scientists refused to accept the premise that human beings might be capable of drastically impacting the environment.


Callendar’s rudimentary estimates of climate change proved to be remarkably accurate and consistent with modern assessments, but the term “global warming” didn’t appear until a Science journal article published on Aug 8, 1975. Titled “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?,” it was written by American geochemist Wallace Smith Broecker.

It sent up red flags in corporate boardrooms from sea to shining sea.

American corporatists preempted public concerns by funding studies disproving serious analysis of global warming and climate change and favoring reports that underemphasized what was a stake, but for anyone who was really paying attention, the truth was obvious. The truth, however, was a liability.

Now, coming up on 50 years later, the truth is more accessible than ever, but no one wants to address it. And Texas is at the forefront of American heedlessness.

Just this past Earth Day — April 22, 2024 — the Texas A&M Office of the Texas State Climatologist issued the report “Assessment of Historic and Future Trends of Extreme Weather in Texas, 1900-2036.” In 40-plus pages, the authors predict that for the next 12 years, things will be hotter and dryer and wildfires will get worse and expand eastward. Meanwhile, the seas in the Gulf of Mexico will rise, and Gulf storms will become larger and more frequent. And winter as a season, at least, will wither, shrink, and occasionally disappear — unless, as those pesky folks who are paying attention, again, wonder, global warming hastens the next ice age. Then, the planet will enjoy winter all year long for centuries.

But who cares when profits are up.

As of August 2023, Texas was responsible for 42% of total United States crude oil production. As of October 2023, Texas was responsible for 43% of all the natural gas produced in America. Also, as of October 2023, Texas was producing 52% of the nation’s exportable natural gas liquids.

No wonder so many Texans walk around with guns.

Like William Barret Travis, Texans have drawn a line in the sand, but this time, we’re behaving more like Charlie Manson than that Lone Star legend of old, vowing to normalize heat death and defend a super-sized Alamo constructed from hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic that lie in the 620,000-square-mile Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch — which is, of course, an obscenely profitable derivative of fractional crude oil distillation.

So, let’s not be coy. Texas has made gazillions from trickle-down ecocide, and we have no plans to quit. Heck, you and I even enjoy front row seats. We knew this was coming.

We just didn’t want to deal with it. Hell, we still have political leaders and pundits who refuse to acknowledge what’s even happening. So, by proxy, they’re arguably straight-facedly orchestrating this hellishness — but they will never be held responsible for it. And they definitely won’t be the ones sweating or burning or dying as a result.

But why extend the Texas State Climatologist Earth Day report only through 2036?

Travis knows the official answer to that.

The year 2036 marks the 200th anniversary of Texas Independence. Unofficially, however, conditions project to get so much worse by 2050 that truncating the truth with a historical marker was probably all the powers that be could stomach.

Capitalism is a flamethrower, and, in the end, we’ll be reduced to cinder by corporate greed or frozen to death by our own mad obliviousness.


Fort Worth native E.R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional & Nefarious and Tell-Tale Texas: Investigations in Infamous History.


This column reflects the opinions and fact-gathering of the author(s) and only the author(s) and not the Fort Worth Weekly. To submit a column, please email Editor Anthony Mariani at He will gently edit it for clarity and concision.