Bren Haase of Coastal Protection

Bren Haase, right, chief of Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority research division, speaks Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, with Anthony Emmons, left, who attended the presentation of the draft plan to slow Louisiana's fast receding coastline.

Mark Ballard

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has released the 2017 draft Five-Year Master Plan, which calls for spending $50 billion for coastal restoration and protection during the next 50 years. Overall, the plan represents an outstanding effort by CPRA. Notably, the plan estimates sea level rise caused by climate change to be 1.4 to 2.7 feet in that times span. This estimate is consistent with recent scientific studies which forecast approximately 6 feet of sea level rise in our children’s lifetimes. 

This view is supported by a vast array of nonpartisan scientific associations, including the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in a letter to Congress. It states:

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. This conclusion is based on multiple independent lines of evidence and the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

For the United States, climate change impacts include greater threats of extreme weather events (and) sea level rise… The severity of climate change impacts is increasing and is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.”

Given the fact that we have not had a global monthly average temperature below normal since 1985, that ocean temperatures are now rising (melting polar ice caps from below), and the strong scientific consensus about human caused climate change, there is little reason to think that rising sea level will not cause widespread devastation to south Louisiana in the next 50 to 80 years. While the CPRA Master Plan may be viable for a 1-to-2-foot rise, there is nothing we can do to save the coast and protect ourselves from a 3-to-6-foot rise in sea level. Major transportation links like I-10, I-12, Hwy 90, Hwy 1 and railroads will be flooded or unavailable for continuous use. Even for areas with levees, like New Orleans, the loss of ground transportation will render them virtual islands.

Sadly, we are passing onto our children and grandchildren a disaster of unprecedented magnitude that will result in economic devastation and a “Louisiana Trail of Tears” as they are forced to permanently abandon coastal Louisiana, including Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes. We are placing a $50 billion bet on the issue of climate change and sea level rise. Even more sadly, our state is actively opposing efforts to fight climate change. I urge everyone to contact their congressmen and legislators to request that we begin a frank dialogue on the viable solutions that exist to address this problem.

Greg J. Gasperecz

environmental engineer

New Orleans