There Is Still Time to Save Louisiana’s Coast, But Here’s Why We Need to Act Fast

Louisiana act fast

USGS officials say marsh creation projects have helped reduce land loss rates during the past seven years. (NOLA.com)

Imagine this.

After discovering your house is infested with termites, the contractor gives you two paths forward:

Sell the thing for whatever you can get and begin looking for a new home in a new place.

Or begin expensive repairs and treatment that only guarantees a termite-free life for 30 years — but during that time researchers will continue working toward a permanent solution.

What’s your choice?

That analogy came to mind after reading these comments about Louisiana’s coastal master plan by Edward Richards, director of the LSU Law Center’s Climate Change Law and Policy Project.

“Climate change is going to sweep away everything they are trying to preserve,” Richards was quoted in a national news story. “These Louisiana coastal restoration schemes are just part of the state’s climate change denial.”

I understand that pessimism. If you’re familiar with the $92 billion master plan but you also keep up with the steady stream of emerging research on climate change it’s hard not to wonder: Why bother?

That dark view can be based on two hard-to-ignore facts.

  • The state’s own report says unless the world reduces emissions by the levels the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommended back in 2014, south Louisiana could lose an additional 2,800 square miles by 2067 even if the plan is finished — flooding many communities south of U.S. 90.
  • And the IPCC recently said the world is so far from reaching that goal, it must reduce emissions by 40 percent in just 10 years to avoid disaster.

So, yes, the odds — backed by research and science — seem to be getting steeper. And that’s why there’s an argument for investing $92 billion in moving rather than fighting on.

But there are counter-arguments.

  • Science is never settled.
  • Almost each of those grim forecasts also offers escape hatches to avoid the worst disasters.
  • And there is likely a cost-benefit — even if we just delay the endgame by 50 years.
  • Let’s take those one at a time.

Read the rest of the article at The Times-Picayune.

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