by Dish Staff
Bob Marshall warns that in Louisiana, “one of the greatest environmental and economic disasters in the nation’s history is rushing toward a catastrophic conclusion over the next 50 years”:
At the current rates that the sea is rising and land is sinking, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists say by 2100 the Gulf of Mexico could rise as much as 4.3 feet across this landscape, which has an average elevation of about 3 feet. If that happens, everything outside the protective levees – most of Southeast Louisiana – would be underwater.
The effects would be felt far beyond bayou country. The region best known for its self-proclaimed motto “laissez les bons temps rouler” – let the good times roll – is one of the nation’s economic linchpins. This land being swallowed by the Gulf is home to half of the country’s oil refineries, a matrix of pipelines that serve 90 percent of the nation’s offshore energy production and 30 percent of its total oil and gas supply, a port vital to 31 states, and 2 million people who would need to find other places to live. The landscape on which all that is built is washing away at a rate of a football field every hour, 16 square miles per year.
Brad Plumer notes that climate change is only one of the environmental problems facing the region:
The land in southeast Louisiana was built up over thousands of years from sediment washed down by the Mississippi River and anchored by plant life in the marshes and wetlands. Without this replenishing, the soil would simply sink into the Gulf of Mexico. And over the past century, various human activities have disrupted this ecosystem. After the Great Flood of 1927, the US Army Corps of Engineers built up a series of levees along the Mississippi that controlled springtime flooding but also blocked sediment from washing down the river and replenishing the delta.
At the same time, the Louisiana coast became a major source of oil and gas during the 20th century. That meant two things. Energy companies dredged thousands of miles of canals through the wetlands to transport equipment through – and those canals allowed shoreline to crumble and saltwater to seep in, killing off plants. Meanwhile, some scientists argue that the land itself has sunk after companies extracted oil and gas from underground wells.