Looking to the Past to Prepare for Our Future
Through all eras of human history, communities have confronted stresses related to climate change that have affected how and where they live. Planet Texas 2050 is studying past societies to help recognize the long-term effects of these stresses and understand how humans will continue to respond to them in the present and near future.
Texas Is Changing
We expect easy access to clean drinking water every day. Reliable electricity 24/7. Clean air, a stable economy, and a safe place to live. These are critical for healthy, thriving communities. Take any one of these away, and our wellbeing and livelihoods can deteriorate quickly.
But in Texas and elsewhere, the looming realities of rapid population growth and weather intensity mean that the things we rely on to live — water, energy, dependable infrastructure, and an ecosystem to support them — are under unprecedented risk.
Here’s why: Texas’ population today is nearly 28 million. By 2050, that number is predicted to double to 55 million, with most people clustered in already-dense urban centers like Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. Limited resources will be in even greater demand.
Add to that the environmental stress from prolonged droughts, record-breaking heat waves, and destructive floods, and what we have won’t be enough.
That’s our current trajectory, but we can still change course.
Planet Texas 2050 is an eight-year sprint to find solutions that will make our communities more resilient and better prepared. To do that, we’re bringing together architects, archaeologists, city planners, public health experts, geologists, engineers, computer scientists, artists — and more.
Just as important, what we discover will have applications that extend far beyond our region. We’ll share our findings, tools, and processes with researchers across the U.S. and the world who are facing similar challenges in the 21st century.
Our Goal: Sustaining Critical Resources
Without essentials like water and energy, the systems we rely on — infrastructure to move goods and people, dependable emergency services, and more — will fail. Our ability to sustain those critical resources at levels that can support massive population growth and climatic shifts is in jeopardy.
Planet Texas 2050 researchers are committed to developing programs and policy recommendations that will improve Texas’ adaptability and build its resilience. To do that, their work will focus on understanding the interconnectedness of four critical resource systems.
How much water do we have, where is it, and how do we get it? Texas has made great strides when it comes to assessing questions of water availability, but we still don’t have all the answers. Our team will consider several water challenges, from measuring water availability today to reconstructing the region’s paleoclimate. Integrating new data will provide a better understanding of Texas’ future.
We use energy — oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and nuclear power — to move people and commerce, power lights, and heat and cool homes. As populations grow, the mix of energy sources will have to change to meet demand while staying affordable and minimizing environmental harm. Our work will focus on gaining a comprehensive understanding of the state’s energy sources and production capabilities.
Texas’ urban centers will undergo a population explosion in the next 30 years. Unaddressed, this will further exacerbate environmental and health problems, traffic congestion, and affordability. We must better manage water distribution, improve transportation planning, increase the prevalence of energy-efficient construction, and mitigate traffic-related air pollution.
Healthy ecosystems are critical. They give us crop pollination and shade, water filtration and natural carbon sequestration. But as Texas’ population grows and droughts and floods become more severe, the resources our lands provide will be threatened. Our researchers will map Texas’ most vulnerable areas and study what effects population growth and weather extremes have on the ecosystem services we rely on.
Solving a Challenge, One Project at a Time
To address the most urgent issues affecting our region, Planet Texas 2050 is conducting new research, launching educational programs, and partnering with organizations and community groups throughout the state.
µP-STREAM: Micro-controller Platform Sending Telemetry Real-time for Earth’s Adaptive Models
Project summary: A key component when designing resilient systems is monitoring complex changes in the environment in near-real-time so that infrastructure and interventions are adaptive. This project will deploy a … Keep reading
Technology Path to the Future — Mars Industries Workshop
Project summary: This is part of a Construction Industry Institute-funded study, where we are developing a roadmap for the future of construction in terms of technology implementation. Part of the … Keep reading
Planet Texas 2050 Courses
CE397 – Sustainable Systems (Spring 2020) Instructor: Fernanda Leite. This course provides a multi-disciplinary overview of the sustainability issues related to urban development, and it focuses on the strategies and … Keep reading
Digital Object Life Cycle (DOLCe)
Project summary: Planet Texas 2050 will produce invaluable—and in some cases irreplicable—data products with potential to enable future research for generations. The Digital Object Life Cycle (DOLCe) initiative seeks to … Keep reading
Greeting Cards from the Anthropocene
Project summary: One of the greatest challenges facing human survival, generally, is the capacity for humans to adequately communicate issues of vital importance with one another. The importance of communicating … Keep reading
Collaborative Escape Room Project
Researchers create escape room to highlight climate crisis. Project summary: Imagine this scenario: in the near future, four researchers are stranded on a distressed weather research station in the Gulf … Keep reading
Project summary: Studies of records of past change have shown that the past can be the key to the future. This includes the discovery of mechanisms such as ocean circulation … Keep reading
Climate Change Adaptation Through Dramaturgy
Project summary: We are interested in how theater and community engagement can help develop a context-specific understanding of climate change to empower Texan communities and individuals to become resilient and … Keep reading
Hurricane-Resilient Healthcare Infrastructure Modeling with Integrated Flood Prediction and Stochastic Logistics Optimization
Hurricane Harvey from space. Project summary: Prediction and logistics models have yet to be integrated for hurricane preparedness and response. The state-of-the-art generates a point estimate, representing an “average” or … Keep reading
Facilitating Timely & Efficient Evacuation of Texas Cities Using Shared and Autonomous Vehicle Fleets
Project summary: Many current Planet Texas 2050 projects emphasize flood risks. We need more strategies for protection of life and property, including expert evacuations. This project will assess the cost … Keep reading
Improving the Estimation of Inundation Extent and Depth with High Resolution Terrain Data Over the State of Texas
Project summary: Flood disasters resulting from recent events in Texas have emphasized the need for rapid estimation of flood inundation. With the availability of high-resolution terrain data over most of … Keep reading
Towards an Equitable Knowledge-Action Network: A Comprehensive Assessment of Environmental NGOs
Project summary: This Planet Texas 2050 project seeks to develop co-production and co-governance strategies to connect emerging modeling platforms to environmental nongovernmental organizations (E-NGOs) undertaking efforts to adapt to and … Keep reading
Urban Planning for an Uncertain Future
Project summary: How cities address inequality in their planning efforts varies widely, raising concerns that adaptation interventions may continue patterns of disparate risk for low-income communities of color. This emerging … Keep reading
Geospatial Analysis of Environmental Suitability for Establishing Burkholderia Species in Texas
Project summary: The spread of tropical diseases to regions previously free of these diseases is one consequence of climate change. A 2016 study identified parts of Texas and Florida as … Keep reading
Texas Water Stories
Project summary: Over the past two years, Texas Water Stories has assessed wide-ranging narratives about one of the most valuable resources in Texas: water. Alvarez has collected historical narratives about … Keep reading
Development of a Framework of Data Interpolation, Scaling, and Homogenization (DISH) for Mapping Natural Resources in Texas
Project summary: This project extends and expands toolsets that were started under the Water Averaging project for data imputation, scaling, and homogenization (DISH) for Texas natural resources and to support … Keep reading
Texas Futures Virtual Reality Experience
Project summary: The vision for the Texas Futures Virtual Reality Experience is of a user‐centered virtual experience of what an urban environment of a select city in Texas would look … Keep reading
Texas Metro Observatory
Project summary: The Texas Metro Observatory (TMO) is a communication and data platform dedicated to sharing information and ideas about Texas’s communities, understanding common problems related to urbanization processes in … Keep reading
Resources, Stress, and Population Dynamics in Premodern Urban Societies
Project summary: Building on work carried out in over the last two years, this project will complete scientific analyses that will illuminate water and watershed management and demographic dynamics in … Keep reading
Urban Watershed Evolution
Bull Creek at Loop 360 in Austin, Texas. Photo credit: Roy Niswanger Project summary: This project is developing two novel research approaches for understanding urbanization impacts on watersheds. In this … Keep reading
DataX and Model Integration
Project summary: Planet Texas 2050 is creating a knowledge center for resilience studies and applications. The research efforts span disciplines to touch the outer limits of our knowledge and attempt … Keep reading
Artist-in-Residence: Lorenz Graybelt
Project summary: Sculptor and performance artist Marie Lorenz will design a video map of the water that flows down Texas’ Colorado River — one of the state’s primary water sources … Keep reading
Project summary: Blue Index is a participatory research project designed to gather feedback about 33 waterscapes throughout Austin. Led by Kevin Jeffery, a graduate student in landscape architecture, Blue Index … Keep reading
This program, designed by UT’s Environmental Science Institute, brings current UT graduate student experts into a local teachers’ classrooms to help them develop new, engaging activities and lesson plans that … Keep reading
Graduate Seminars and Project-Based Courses
Planet Texas 2050 faculty lead graduate classes that are open to master’s and Ph.D.-level students across all schools and departments at UT. These courses delve into concepts and issues central … Keep reading
Austin Metro Listening Tour
Before embarking on research of this scale, graduate students, under the direction of research chair Katherine Lieberknecht, spent several months meeting with city and county officials around central Texas. Their … Keep reading
UT’s first grand challenge brings together researchers from 14 colleges, schools, and units across campus, a number that is expected to grow as more projects are added each year.
My research explores Earth surface processes, including climate and hydrologic processes. Much of that focuses on the study of cave deposits, carbonate rocks, and modern aquifers and watersheds.
My research blends computational approaches with ecology and evolutionary biology to address the causes and consequences of local and global environmental change.
I’m trained as a facilitator, educator, and program strategist. I help ensure efforts contribute to progress on critical issues such as climate change, sustainable growth, and equity.
My built environment research program sits at the interface of engineering and computing. Most of my work has been in building and infrastructure systems information modeling.
I study how ecosystems support cities and the residents living within them. My work focuses on urban water planning, metropolitan-scaled green infrastructure planning, and metropolitan food systems.
My work centers around studying extreme weather events, particularly landfalling hurricanes, heavy rain events, heat waves, and droughts. My goal is to help prevent natural hazards from becoming disasters by using scientific models and technological tools.
I’m a trained groundwater scientist, and I lead an NSF-funded effort to apply artificial intelligence and knowledge-centered computing to solve complex Earth resource problems.
I study the interplay between individuals’ daily lives and the unfolding of larger, historical processes — and on the interdisciplinary research methods necessary to connect the two.
My work looks at how race and racism affect environmental planning, particularly regarding wastewater infrastructure in older American cities.