Economics and policy featured at coastal forum

Johnny Morgan  |  3/29/2016 6:44:35 PM

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LSU AgCenter/Sea Grant fisheries agent Mark Shirley presents a program titled, “How Far Away is the Gulf of Mexico?” at the fifth CNREP Forum held in New Orleans March 20-22. The presentation had been previously presented to 4-H members in St. Mary Parish to explain the risk they face as residents living so close to the Gulf. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter economists John Westra discusses the effects of sediment as the source of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico during the fifth CNREP Forum held in New Orleans March 20-22. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

(03/29/16) NEW ORLEANS – Exploring ways to combat global warming and detailing the formation of coastal Louisiana were main topics discussed by keynote speakers at the LSU Center for Natural Resource Economic Policy (CNREP) 2016 forum held March 21-22.

Two of the keynote speakers were Gernot Wagner, lead senior economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, and Richard Campanella, geographer with the Tulane School of Architecture.

Wagner discussed the economics of climate change and how it will affect everyone.

It’s main point was that there is one law of economics—and that is the law of demand, he said.

“It works every single time, other than with CO2 emissions,” Wagner said. “At the end of the day, when it comes to doing enough about climate change, the thing to do is price CO2 and get out of the way.”

Campanella presented a 300-year historical geography of New Orleans, explaining how over 7,000 years, the Mississippi River deposited sediment that built up the delta that is now New Orleans.

“The formation of the delta was fundamentally fluid and dynamic. It depended on pure gravity,” he said. “What man has done is impose rigidity on that fluidity.”

To use a banking analogy, Campanella said, there is more withdrawal of sediment than is being deposited to create new land area.

“What’s being done now structurally is the building of the new $15 billion levee system, which is higher and stronger than ever before,” he said.

Bringing social scientists together to tackle the issues of socioeconomic challenges of coastal resource management and policy is the goal of the CNREP triennial meeting.

A major focus of the meeting is the role that ecosystem services will play in federal policy and the latest advancements in natural resource valuation.

In the Gulf South region, a number of meetings look at coastal land loss, ecology hydrology and engineering, said LSU AgCenter/Sea Grant economist and conference chairman Rex Caffey.

“We started this conference to fill a gap; a response to the lack of socioeconomic information to understand how people will be affected for both economic and political reasons,” Caffey said.

Over the three days of the conference, a number of presentations and panel discussions related to climate change, valuation of ecosystem services and coastal restoration financing.

Since the first forum held in 2004, a few themes are coming to the forefront, Caffey said.

“What we’re seeing is fisheries economics, wetland valuation and more recently, we’re seeing more on climate change,” he said. “Depending on what policies are enacted, there could be some significant impacts in how we live our lives with climate change and the policies to deal with climate change.”

AgCenter and Sea Grant economists and fisheries agents presented information relating to the ecological and socioeconomic situation facing the Gulf region.

Even though the Gulf Coast was the main topic discussed at the forum, presenters came from as far away as Sweden.

Lina Isacs, a Ph.D. student at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, presented her research on state preferences as they relate to changes in environmental quality.

“What I’ll discuss is the importance of letting people have a discussion before they state their willingness to pay for changes in environmental quality,” she said. “It’s a new approach to valuing environmental benefits that are more realistic in terms of how people function when they make decisions,”

AgCenter/Sea Grant fisheries agent Mark Shirley presented a program that was co-authored by AgCenter/Sea Grant fisheries agent Thu Bui titled, “How Far Away is the Gulf of Mexico?”

The program has been previously presented to 4-H members in St. Mary Parish.

“The idea for the program is to get students to understand the changes that will occur in their areas along the coast in the next 50 years when they become grandmas and grandpas,” Shirley said.

As part of the project, the students built elevation benchmarks in front of every school in the parish to show how fast land loss is occurring, Shirley said.

“The goal is to get them to realize the risk of living in their changing communities,” Shirley said.

Undergraduate students also presented their research. Yunuke Noyanamba, a junior at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, was part of a volunteer cleanup group for the past week in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. She discussed the work she did there.

“My presentation was focused on marginalized groups, and I’m sharing my weeklong experience working with volunteers in the New Orleans area,” she said. During her stay, she spent time in the most blighted areas of the city.

While in the city, she said, she was surprised to see so many properties still abandoned almost 11 years after Hurricane Katrina.

The forum had more than 225 attendees, including 160 presenters and panelists representing 63 public and private institutions located in 29 U.S. states and five countries.

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