While the President of the United States makes ignorant jokes about climate change — in which he does not believe — one of the United States is preparing to abandon a chunk of land the size of the state of Delaware to rising sea waters, an effect of climate change. The state of Louisiana is preparing to abandon its entire coastal plain to the sea, to forbid new building there and to buy out and move tens of thousands of people who are at risk. Any people or businesses stubborn enough to stay would be taxed heavily, and required to post a bond to pay for the eventual demolition of their property.
We must keep in mind that this is a draft plan, that will have to survive a tsunami of opposition in order to take on the force of law. We must keep in mind that governments have tried before to do the right thing, without effect. Why, even the Congress of these United States, not long ago, actually began to fix the National Flood Insurance Program so it would make sense [“Wait, What? Congress Fixed Flood Insurance?”], but that’s just a misty memory now.
One remarkable thing about the Louisiana plan is that it is by far the most aggressive and comprehensive official response to rising seas ever undertaken in the United States (a couple of which — Florida and Virginia — have forbade the use of the term “climate change” in their official documents). Another remarkable thing? The study is being funded in part by the government of the United States, the one headed up by the guy who says climate change is a Chinese hoax.
The plan is heroic, in that it seeks to take on insoluble problems. The man in charge of the plan, Mathew Sanders (who by the way has the total backing of the popular Democratic governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards) says “Not everybody is going to live where they are now and continue their way of life. And that is an emotional, and terrible, reality to face.”
Reactions from residents of the doomed region, as quoted in a recent Bloomberg News article, ranged from resentment that “they” don’t do “more” to “protect” the land rather than try to force people to move; to glum acceptance as voiced by a store owner who put his building on 16-foot stilts after a hurricane in 2008, and now sees his parking lot flood almost every day: “Where do you want me to go?” he says.
The undeniable pathos of its inhabitants notwithstanding, this region is doomed by an ironic double whammy; it is sinking because of the massive volumes of oil that have been sucked out from under it; and the sea is rising because of the warming effects on the climate of the burning of all that oil. There’s no way to deflect what’s coming. The only thing to do is run.
Simple and undeniable as the facts are, Louisiana is the only state in the Union that is facing them head on, or trying to — we’ll see what the fate of its plan turns out to be. This planning may be possible only because the coastal plain is populated mostly by poor people, whereas the coast of, say, Florida is thick with people who have enough money to bribe people to look the other way while they make a little more money.
Ignorance is bliss, say the coastal developers and their wholly-owned politicians, and we want our bliss to last a little longer. But as more and more mainstream business publications, such as Bloomberg News, are pointing out more and more often [“South Florida’s Real Estate Reckoning Could be Closer Than You Think”], the water is rising and time is running out.
Go ahead, Mr. President, make another joke.