As sea level rise continues intensifying over the coming decades, a great many of the coastlines of the world are going to be made unrecognizable. Perhaps more importantly, a vast number of people will be forced to migrate elsewhere.
In some regions, such as much of the coastal portion of the US bordering the Gulf of Mexico, this reality is going to be compounded by the continued sinking of the land (mostly the result of management practices along the Mississippi River, and the large-scale pumping of underground fossil fuel reserves and water).
With those realities in mind, a plan is now being put together that would see much of coastal Louisiana essentially declared “uninhabitable” — with the idea being to aggressively force the abandonment of the region.
If the plan goes into effect, then it will represent essentially the first such action to take place in the US — and will mark quite a departure from the “rising seas must not be spoken about or acknowledged as a reality” attitude that pervades much of the southeastern US.
A draft of that plan now circulating would create prohibitions on the construction of new houses in high-risk areas and would also see those who live in such areas now offered buyouts.
Perhaps more interestingly, the plan would impose heavy tax hikes on those who choose to stay in such regions. Also notable is that developers operating in such places would be required to “put up bonds to pay for those buildings’ eventual demolition,” as worded in the coverage from Bloomberg.
The plans reportedly possess the backing of Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards.
As explained by the state official in charge of the program, Mathew Sanders: “Not everybody is going to live where they are now and continue their way of life. And that is an emotional, and terrible, reality to face.”
The Bloomberg coverage provides more: “State officials say they hope the program, called Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments, or LA SAFE, becomes a model for coastal areas around the country and the world threatened by climate change.
“While the state hasn’t come up with a cost estimate, the buyouts and resettlement could add up to billions of dollars. The federal grant for the initial phase cost $40 million. The idea hasn’t gone over well with all the people it’s supposed to help, some of whom want the government to do more to protect their communities instead of abandoning them.”
Before moving on here, I have to question the purpose of “protecting” against the inevitable — while the idea seems to be embedded deeply into modern culture and psyches that you can make things the way you want by taking action, by “protecting” what’s “yours,” I’m very skeptical that such an attitude is at all useful when dealing with systems that operate on the scale of the global climate.
Ceasing to make the problem worse — ceasing to add further turbulence-inducing inputs (greenhouse gases) into the system — would of course have some effect, but there’s almost no political will there for that. Overall, at this point, it would seem that the concept of “adaptation” has a lot more that can be said for it.
While some residents may complain about the lack of further action, the truth is that there are only so many resources available — would residents truly prefer that more money to be flushed down into mitigation efforts, rather than buyout and relocation programs? The money is possibly not their for either, and it certainly isn’t there for both.
Back to the Bloomberg coverage: “Sanders is working to complete the plan by early next year (2018), at which point it will be up to federal, state, and local officials to decide if they will implement it. Edwards, the Democratic governor, announced his support for the program in March. If he backs its recommendations, the state could create a buyout program or eliminate the homestead exemption for homes in high-risk areas, which would mean higher property taxes for many residents.
“… According to Sanders, the lesson from those months of meetings is that the people most at risk along Louisiana’s coast know they’re in danger, and they want more than just assurances that life can go on as normal.
“… Rob Moore, a flood policy expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, said that if the state goes ahead with the plan, ‘then every coastal state in the country should be asking themselves: If Louisiana can do this, why aren’t we?’”
Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Because the changes that are coming should at this point be undeniable.
As noted by a resident of the town of Leeville, Opie Griffin, when speaking about his family’s restaurant/gas-station and the surrounding area there: “There’s no way they can protect this … I see more and more water every year.”
It’ll be interesting to see how politicians respond to the plan, considering the present political climate. At some point, such issues will likely become bipartisan — but who can tell how long that will take?
Image via USDA