In his Jan. 29 column, Advocate columnist Jeff Sadow called out the state’s draft 2017 Coastal Master Plan for overestimating projected sea level rise and for relying on what he called refuted climate science in framing the new plan. If only. I don’t know Sadow, but I do know we have something in common: Neither of us are scientists, which should make us careful not to pass judgment on matters beyond our briefs. That said, I do follow coastal restoration very closely, and this much I know; referencing the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in our coastal Master Plans is nothing new. Indeed, a glance at the 2012 Master Plan’s appendices shows that the IPCC was an important resource in that plan. Also, where Sadow presumes that partisan politics is the reason for the more extreme projections of sea level rise (though he is unable to make a connection to Gov. John Bel Edwards' own views) I know from my many dealings with Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority that the team and methodology behind the 2017 draft are substantially the same as those that were in place during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tenure. What has changed is not so much the politics of the coast as the state of the science and the ways risk management practices are evolving in the public and private sectors. Like Sadow, I wish it were otherwise, but I appreciate being told what we need to plan for. Regardless, Sadow asks the state to take the least responsible course, to swap out the sea level projections or kill the plan. It is not that easy. The climate science he disputes is in the DNA of the plan and has been since the first Master Plan in 2007. It is part and parcel of the scientific integrity of the plan. To yank it out and replace it with the figures that Sadow suggests would be arbitrary and, indeed, political. Moreover, to reject the draft solely because it disagrees with his view of climate science is irresponsible. The draft plan, like its predecessors, won’t be close to perfect, and it deserves critiques and comments. Citizens should have at it. But Sadow goes beyond that, though, to judge the science and impugn the integrity of the team that has worked since 2012 to frame it. Maybe it goes with the territory for a political scientist to see all science as being political, but I hope not. Before we take that path, we should keep in mind that since the state committed to having and updating a coastal master plan rooted in strong science, it has served our state well. It would be a serious mistake to follow Sadow’s lead on this one. Please note that these views are personal and not offered on behalf Tulane Law School or University.
director, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy