Fifteen years ago, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the gulf coast from Hancock County, Mississippi, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The two storms caused more than $180 billion worth of damage to human structures. They also decimated what remained of barrier islands and wetlands south of these two states. Since then, environmental groups have poured millions of dollars into improving those crucial natural resources. Their efficacy will be tested later today near Lake Charles, where Hurricane Laura is slated to make landfall.
Like most people, I feel good about money spent improving the environment. But I’m curious: how much good will building up barrier islands and wetlands do if ocean levels outpace such expansion?
If those efforts prove insufficient, what should our next steps be to protect these lands–and New Orleans, the greatest, culturally most significant city in the south? How should we marshal our resources effectively? The answers aren’t simple. Cease and desist with the creation of new housing and developments? That will be a non-starter for those who rely on tourism for their tax base. Try to wean ourselves off fossil fuels? That sounds great to elites, but won’t fly with people whose monthly incomes don’t last as long as their months. What balanced approach can work?
Per an article published by the Yale School of the Environment, global ocean levels have risen an estimated 19 centimeters in the last century. Put in perspective, rates of sea level ascension have nearly doubled wince 1993—and show no sign of slowing down. It would be foolish to think that the restoration of barrier islands and wetlands could evade the effects of rising sea levels. However, halting the redevelopment of these natural resources would be a mistake. Coastal wetlands and barrier islands protect coastlines from major storms and hurricanes. The damage these storms would incur on coastal regions in the absence of these “natural buffers” would be catastrophic. I acknowledge that restoration of barrier islands and wetlands is not a permanent solution, but for now it is necessary. Going forward, I believe we should continue these efforts while also working towards new solutions—we need to protect ourselves now so that we may devise solutions to protect ourselves in future.
There is no one size fits all to solve natural disasters. There must be a multipronged approach from the federal and state governments, the private sector and academia to solve progressively worse climate change issues that are fueling the fire for these calamities.
The continuous increase of trapping of greenhouse gases, a cause of climate change, ensues in an increase of temperatures in the atmosphere.This is problematic, as according to the Center of Climate and Energy Solutions, warmer ocean temperatures could result in stronger hurricanes and increased flooding of coastal areas. Increased loss of life, high property damages and ecological destruction follows this grim trend.
As Elena mentions, short term solutions such as artificial barrier islands need to be implemented now, so we have a future to look forward to. However, the near present cannot be the sole focus. Focusing on our environmental future is not only critical to decrease the severity of hurricanes, but also to stave off the loss of biodiversity, protect against wildfires, and prepare for other natural catastrophes that derive from climate change. The only way to ensure a safe future is to actively work towards one, and thus I propose one of the first steps should be for the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, a coalition of around 200 countries that are working to reduce their carbon emissions. The United States is a superpower and needs to set the standard for other countries to follow, rather than leaving agreements that are set to help the environment.
To be honest, I think there money should be spent on building barrier island and wetlands or other methods inspire of the rising ocean level expansion because what we need now is failure. If we want to move forward with greater environmental care we first got to see what does and does not work. But I see what does not work as of greater value as it limits the extent to where such development should be. If barrier islands and wetlands aren’t effective, then we should see why they aren’t effective. What attributes about them make them not effective? What can we do to improve them? Is it viable to continue this route or are there other solutions that are better? All these questions derive from failure.
Am I saying that we should waste so much money on environmental research to see if it would work on not? No, I am not. I wouldn’t consider this method to be a “waste of resources” but rather an investment for the future. We get more out of what we put in. To be blunt, conserving our resources may not be the most effective way to deal with the situation. I see conserving our resources to be one enemy in this scheme. Instead, we should break free from those constraints! Let us use these resources for a better tomorrow as limiting them will hinder the research process.
But we come across the issue of whether or not is it worth spending so much money and resources on environmental care? The question to that answer lies with where your priorities align. I see it during these times that environmental care is crucial in todays society as people are able to see what effects global warming, floods, and other other natural disasters are doing to the Earth. To counter the issue of spending too much money, just limit it to a few locations that are in need of the developments, like New Orleans. They are the ones who are need of these developments the most and the ones who will benefit the most out of its possible success. In the end, we need to be more willing to dive deep into these situations rather than just approach it on a shallow level. Let the money be free.
I believe that we should view the problem of protecting coastal cities on a larger scale. Like Nicholas, I believe that the increased production of green house gasses and the warming of the planet contribute more to the development of hurricanes than most people believe as the rising ocean temperatures lead to stronger and more frequent storms. Commenting towards the end of hurricane season, I know that this hurricane season has had 27 named storms and counting, which is the second most active season on record behind the 2005 season. With the number of named storms per year increasing, the damage to coastal cities will only get worse. This issue is a timely one, and delaying decisions will only make things worse. Ditching fossil fuels may cause problems initially, but in the long run, it will lead to a calmer ocean and safer coastal cities.