One of the effects of climate change is global warming: that is, the warming of the atmosphere as the CO2 concentrations go up. When the atmosphere warms up, it holds more water, which means we get harder rains. Warmer ocean water pumps more energy into the atmosphere which means stronger storms. And, as we all know, a warmer atmosphere and warmer oceans means sea levels are rising.

This combination: intense rains, stronger storms, and sea level rise means our infrastructure is at risk. Especially infrastructure on the coasts.

Propublica recently published a photo essay about the fossil fuel infrastructure in Houston, highlighting how vulnerable this infrastructure is to storms and flooding. A few years ago Hurricane Ike hit Houston and did $30 billion dollars in damage. If Ike had hit just slightly to the West and had just slightly stronger winds, it would have been much much worse, with a potential for 11ft storm surge in Galveston, and 6 feet of flooding at the main Exxon chemical facility inland.

If a storm hits the region in the right spot, “it’s going to kill America’s economy.” — Pete Olson, a Republican congressman from Sugar Land, a Houston suburb.

“Such a storm would devastate the Houston Ship Channel, shuttering one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. Flanked by 10 major refineries — including the nation’s largest — and dozens of chemical manufacturing plants, the Ship Channel is a crucial transportation route for crude oil and other key products, such as plastics and pesticides. A shutdown could lead to a spike in gasoline prices and many consumer goods — everything from car tires to cell phone parts to prescription pills.”

Some people worry if we tackle climate change head on, we will kill the economy. Just about every Republican candidate for president has said this. But it is absolutely clear that if we do not tackle climate change, our economy will be killed by other means.

One way or another we’re going to have to deal with this.

The photos in this photo essay are astounding: the sheer scale of the infrastructure that we humans have built to support our fossil fuel-based economy and lifestyles is shocking. Then to realize all of this is a sitting duck for the next hurricane to hit the Texas coast is terrifying.