Life in Louisiana will only get wetter, hotter and wetter in the coming decades, according to the latest international climate change warning. And extreme weather will be more than just uncomfortable – it will be deadly, and it already is.
The report, dubbed “a damning indictment of failing climate leadership” by a senior United Nations official, looked at how people, especially those in coastal communities like Louisiana, are already suffering the effect of rising global temperatures. of 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has guaranteed that the world will warm by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 3 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2050, and those effects are locked in.
“With just 1.1 degrees Celsius of warming so far, we are already seeing a rapid acceleration of harmful impacts around the world,” said Kathleen Miller, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the lead authors. of the report. “This is ringing the alarm bells.”
Residents of coastal Louisiana are already on the frontlines of more intense hurricanes, rising seas, rain showers causing flooding and extreme heat waves from climate change, said Virginia Burkett, chief scientist. for climate change and land use at the US Geological Survey. By the end of the century, Louisiana could, on average, be 12 degrees warmer, allowing the air to retain even more moisture and worsen storms.
“You equate sea level rise with increased storm intensity, and you basically have an existential threat to the Louisiana coast,” said Burkett, who also sits on the storms task force. Louisiana climate initiatives. “Without adaptation and mitigation, communities and natural systems along the northern Gulf Coast, particularly on the Louisiana coast, will continue to decline.”
There is still hope, Miller added. Deep reductions in fossil fuel emissions over the next few decades would keep global warming within a range that allows people to adapt to the impacts of climate change, according to the report released Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. climatic.
But it won’t be easy. The windows for climate change adaptation and mitigation are the same if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change and protect itself against the warming already underway.
“What we find is that there are things that can be done within certain limits. If warming goes too far, then we’re increasingly going to run into what we call “hard limits,” Miller said.
These “hard limits” come after warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, resulting in impacts that people cannot adapt to, such as the Gulf of Mexico submerging their community. As it stands, sea levels are already expected to rise 2 feet in Louisiana by 2050 and could rise more than 4 feet by 2100, according to projections by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Without achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, rising sea levels could eventually render some coastal areas uninhabitable, according to the IPCC report. If action is taken, the report highlights the need for “transformational adaptation” through regional collaborations, investing in nature-based solutions rather than gray infrastructure and encouraging resilient development to the climate.
Some of these issues are addressed in Louisiana’s first-ever climate plan, which sets out policies that would align the state with the global effort to reach net zero by 2050.
For Louisiana officials, Hurricane Katrina offered a tragic wake-up call about the need to adapt and mitigate the cumulative effects of intense storms and extreme land loss along the coast.
But each disaster compounds the next, and it becomes harder to balance forward-looking adaptation with recovery, said Camille Manning-Broome, executive director of the Center for Planning Excellence. The non-profit organization works with the state on climate adaptation and disaster resilience.
“Because our vulnerabilities in Louisiana make it difficult to get ahead of these escalating disasters, we need to focus on a whole-of-government approach,” she said.
That means all state agencies need to think about their own role in managing the effects of climate change, Manning-Broome said, a process the governor’s office has already begun with the center.
State and local governments will also need to revamp their thinking about water management and development, Manning-Broome said, moving away from Louisiana’s traditional approach of hauling what with ditches and culverts. to live with water and build more water retention areas and green spaces to cope with increased rainfall.
It also requires all levels to address larger issues that undermine a community’s resilience, including racial divisions and the state’s high poverty rate that leave residents without tools to cope on their own. to disasters.
People are already migrating from high-risk areas miles away from the state’s eroding coastline, but it’s not happening equitably due to gaps in federal disaster recovery programs. With each storm, those who cannot afford to move have no choice but to rebuild.
“We’re going to have to think creatively about buyouts and human migration and what that looks like,” Manning-Broome said. “Otherwise people will slowly choke and we will continue to see migrations out of Louisiana.”