Louisiana Coastal Land Loss: A Local Example, A Global Concern

Effects of global climate change, such as sea-level rise, continue to affect Louisiana’s coastal populations and economy. Some may not know that Louisiana’s coast is also known as “America’s Wetland”. It derives its name from the vast expanse of wetlands along the coast (Louisiana contains 40% of all tidal marshes in the continental United States [1]).

Benefits provided by the Louisiana Coastland:

  • Louisiana produces 30% of all coastal fisheries in the continental U.S. [1]
  • Louisiana serves 90% of the nation’s offshore energy, and 30% of the U.S. oil and gas supply [5]
  • Louisiana wetlands provides vital hurricane protection to the 2 million citizens living in the area [1]
  • Louisiana’s boating ports provide access for 31 states [5]
  • Louisiana is home to one of America’s most remarkable cultures [1]
  • Louisiana is an area of world ecological significance for wildlife [1]

Coastal land loss has affected the people and environment of Louisiana for more than a century now. According to the New York Times, Isle de Jean Charles climate refugees are an example of the new and massive problem the world may be facing in the coming decades [2]. The island has lost 98 percent of its land area since 1955 as sea levels rise and land is lost to the Gulf of Mexico. Most Isle de Jean Charles residents are Native American and tribal members of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians as well as the United Houma Nation [3].

tribes_losing

In 2016, “the community of Isle de Jean Charles became the first U.S. group of “climate refugees” to receive federal assistance for a large-scale retreat from the effects of climate change” [3]. The terms “migration with dignity” or “planned relocation” are preferred over “climate refugees” [4]. Other American groups considered “climate refugees” are the Quinault Indian Nation of the Pacific Northwest and the Inupiat of Kivalina, Alaska [4].

Dr. Julia Meaton from the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Sustainable and Resilient Communities, mentioned, “Most people don’t engage with climate change because they perceive it as a distant phenomenon. They think there’s nothing they can do and technology or governments will solve the problem”; she also notes, “we worry about our children and our grandchildren but we don’t worry about the future for our children’s grandchildren” [7].

delta compare 2.png

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists  (NOAA) say that by the year 2100, the Gulf of Mexico could rise as much as 4.3 feet across the Louisiana landscape [5]. Dr. Julia Meaton from the University of Huddersfield says, “an estimated 250 million people will be climate change refugees by the year 2050″ [7]. She also mentioned that to combat to global climate change “we need to completely change our business models, consume less, increase energy efficiency,  and make fewer demands on the world’s natural resources [7].

Economic losses that Louisiana experiences may expand across the nation. Louisiana coastal land loss is not just a state problem, but also a national concern and a global example of future issues resulting from climate change. A diverse group of partners, including the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act, are working to slow land loss and rebuild wetlands across Louisiana’s coast through large-scale restoration projects and public outreach.

la basins 3

How YOU CAN Help:

  1. Participate in a wetland restoration plan. Contribute your professional expertise or elbow grease through wetland clean-ups, replanting, and other activities [1]. 
  2. Become involved in local government actions that affect wetlands. You can request to receive the agenda of project planning meetings and copies of documents covering any restoration issues [1].
  3. Speak out for protection for Louisiana’s coast and coastal wetlands, marshes, cheniers and barrier islands to your elected officials. Let them know the coast has a voting constituency [1].
  4. Observe development practices in Louisiana’s coastal zone to determine if erosion and pollution control is effective and report violations to city and county officials [1].
  5. Encourage neighbors, developers and state and local governments to protect wetlands in your watershed resolutions, ordinances, and laws [1].
  6. Learn more about wetland restoration activities in your area; seek and support opportunities to restore degraded wetlands. You can even obtain technical and financial assistance if you wish to restore wetlands on your property [1].

More ways to Help!

 

Click a Link Below for further reading!

Isle de Jean Charles Official Website

Reclaiming Native Ground

Loyola Center for Environmental Communication

LSU: Climate Change: What will it mean for Louisiana’s Coastal Fisheries?

PRI: Louisiana’s Coastline is disappearing at the rate of a football field an hour

Scientific American: Losing Ground: Southeast Louisiana is Disappearing, Quickly

Climate Refugees Film

Louisiana Fights the Sea, and loses

 

Sources:

[1] America’s Wetland Foundation: Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana. 14 May 2018. http://www.americaswetlandresources.com/index.html

[2] Davenport, Coral and Robertson, Campell. “Resettling the first American Climate Refugees”. 14 May 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/resettling-the-first-american-climate-refugees.html

[3] Johnson, Chevel. “As Louisiana Shrings State Paying to Move Residents”. 14 May 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/21/as-louisiana-island-shrinks-state-paying-to-move-residents.html

[4] Lenferna, Alex. “Don’t Celebrate the U.S. for Protecting Climate “Refugees”. 14 May 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-lenferna-climate-refugees_us_5aa92f40e4b001c8bf15db8f

[5] Marshall, Bob. “Losing Ground:Southeast Lousiana Is Disapperaing Quickly”. 14 May 2018, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/losing-ground-southeast-louisiana-is-disappearing-quickly/#

[6] Reckdahl, Katy. “Losing Louisiana”. 14 May 2018, http://stories.weather.com/story/5931

[7] Stelfox, Hilary. “250 million people will be climate change refugees by 2050, predicts Huddersfield University academic”. https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/250-million-people-climate-change-10664041

[8] Featured Image: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-releases-detailed-global-climate-change-projections

 

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