Global Warming Costly for Louisiana’s Coast

Johnny Morgan  |  5/4/2016 6:16:57 PM

Exploring ways to combat global warming and detailing the formation of coastal Louisiana were main topics discussed by speakers at the Center for Natural Resource Economics and Policy (CNREP) 2016 forum held March 21-22 in New Orleans, which was sponsored by the LSU AgCenter.

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.

“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,” Wagner said.

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, which 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, said Rex Caffey, LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant economist, who was conference chairman.

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

“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.

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.”

Mark Shirley, AgCenter and Sea Grant fisheries agent, gave a presentation on “How Far Away Is the Gulf of Mexico,” which is a 4-H program he developed with Thu Bui, AgCenter and Sea Grant fisheries agent, 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.

Yunuke Noyanamba, a junior at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, was part of a volunteer cleanup group during the week before the conference in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. 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.

Abstracts from the conference and a complete conference program may be obtained at www.cnrep.lsu.edu. For more information contact Caffey at rcaffey@agenter.lsu.edu.

Johnny Morgan is a specialist with LSU AgCenter Communications.

(This article appeared in the winter 2016 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

Jared Broussard of Abbeville High School - lo res.jpg thumbnail

Students plant marsh grass along the coast. Photo by Bruce Schultz

beach scene with birds overhead - lo res.jpg thumbnail

Beach scene along Louisiana's coast. Photo by Bruce Schultz

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