New Orleans is one of the states most at risk from the effects of global warming, according to an August report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental organization, based on prior peer-reviewed and government-sponsored studies.
Global warming is caused by the release of man-made greenhouse gases, which increase global temperature and result in the melting of ice caps and glaciers, both which cause sea levels to rise, according to scientific consensus.
Within the next 90 years, New Orleans could see an increase in sea level as much as 4.6 feet. At the same time, some areas of New Orleans – already below sea level – have been sinking an inch a year. These conditions give Louisiana one of the highest rates of sea submersion in the nation, the report said.
“New Orleans is one of the most vulnerable cities in the United States to the impacts of climate change, due to its low elevation, land subsidence rates, sea level rise, and prediction of more intense hurricanes,” the report said. “If the impacts of relative sea level rise on wetlands are not checked, metropolitan New Orleans could eventually sit on land almost completely surrounded by the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.”
Rising seas are expected to wipe out a significant portion of Louisiana’s wetlands in the Mississippi River Deltaic Plain, where wetland loss is already among highest in the world. The city of New Orleans has historically depended on these wetlands for protection.
Loss of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands would also hurt other economic sectors such as fishing, timber, agriculture, tourism, and recreation, along with devastating the Port of New Orleans – resulting in an aggregate loss exceeding $100 billion, according to the report.
Global warming is also exacerbate storms and hurricanes, the report said. This would result in more frequent coastal and inland flooding around New Orleans.
The report recommends that New Orleans take preventative action, including decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The report says that Louisiana as a whole “has not adopted a greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal.”
In 2009, the state legislature created the Climate Change Policy Commission to develop a comprehensive policy for future climate change effects. The commission never met, and a bill to extend the life of the commission died in the House of Representatives a year later.
The New Orleans government, in contrast to Louisiana government, set a goal as early as March 2001 to reduce municipal greenhouse gas emissions as much as 10 percent from the 1998 levels by the year 2015.