Our Views: Our coast under threat

Perhaps it is not a scientific term, but in Louisiana we’re seeing a double-whammy.

Even as a scientific consensus forms around the impact of man’s industrial development on the globe, we see in Louisiana the subsidence of the coast, just as sea levels rise.

While there are those who for various reasons believe climate science is either wrong or overstated in terms of its effects, the consensus is against that minority view.

Instead, as the National Climate Assessment report issued by the White House stated, Louisiana is already seeing an increase in the number of days when temperatures get above 95 degrees and the region will continue to see coastal vulnerability increase.

“Based on sea level rise trends, today’s occasional floods are tomorrow’s high tides,” said Kristin Dow, professor of geography at the University of South Carolina. “Climate change is happening here in the Southeast and we’re feeling the effects.”

As one of the authors of the report, Dow could provide some particular insight into the South’s problems with this rising tide of bad news.

She cited Port Fouchon, one of America’s most essential energy ports. Only one road supplies the vast infrastructure of boats that service the offshore oil and gas industry.

“The Department of Homeland Security estimated that a 90-day closure of this road would cost the nation $7.8 billion,” the White House report said.

Nationally, climate change has been seen in more episodes of extreme weather, such as prolonged droughts or heavier downpours of rain, which can cause localized flooding.

Other concerns include an increased frequency of severe storms, fewer frost-free days, ocean acidification and ice melt.

“The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice-free in summer before midcentury,” according to the report.

The Gulf Coast states face rising costs and losses from sea level rise and tropical storms, which will push more water inland.

Today, the Gulf Coast states average about $14 billion in damage from hurricane winds, sinking land and sea level rise, according to the report. Future losses could rise to anywhere between $18 billion a year to $23 billion a year with about 50 percent of the increase related to climate change, the report quotes from a 2010 publication from America’s Wetland Foundation and Entergy.

All this ought to alarm anyone in Louisiana, even those who don’t buy the big-picture view of climate change. Because even if our coast is vulnerable to only subsidence, that is a substantial threat.

We urge people in Louisiana to take a look at this issue with clear eyes. If you are of a certain age, you can see already the dramatic effects of coastal erosion and subsidence along Louisiana’s diminishing shoreline. Add sea-level rise and it truly is a double-whammy.

And not a distant threat, but an urgent one.