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Looking at Future Climate Threats Eight Years After Hurricane Katrina
By Jeff Spross
Eight years ago today, Hurricane Katrina came roaring in out of the Gulf of Mexico and straight into New Orleans. The storm overwhelmed the city’s levees and flooded many of the neighborhoods, ultimately killing more than 1,800 people—most of them poor and underprivileged—and wreaking more than $108 billion in estimated damages. Poignantly, even New Orleans’ Six Flags amusement park remains abandoned, the “Closed for Storm” signs still posted.
But while slow, the rebuilding process is real. As the city’s 300th anniversary approaches, it has removed 10,000 blighted properties, 80 percent of the pre-storm population has returned, new businesses are opening, old businesses are returning and investment is slowly making a comeback. The reclamation is ultimately estimated to cost as much as $150 billion. But “the city is a much better place than it was eight years ago,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the StarTribune.
New Orleans’ comeback is occurring on more human levels as well. Ronald Lewis is president and co-founder of the Original Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and a retired streetcar line repairman. He’s also a resident of the Ninth Ward and saw virtually his whole neighborhood washed away by Katrina. Now Lewis is back, and has rebuilt a museum in his back yard called the House of Dance and Feathers. It holds memorabilia from New Orleans’ social life and pleasure clubs dating all the way back to the 1800s, and cultural testaments to the contributions of the city’s African American and Native American communities.
“Katrina created a vast wasteland down here in the Lower Nine. And out of that I always tell this story about how towns are built, how the settlers used to ride across the mountains and see a single house and a smokestack,” Lewis told NPR. “And from that single house and smokestack became a town, and from that town became a city.”
The destruction Katrina brought stands as a monument to government neglect, racial injustice and the ongoing ravages of economic impoverishment. But as a recent prayer breakfast in the city pointed out, it also stands as a monument to the growing threat of climate change. Warmer global temperatures and the melting of the polar ice drives sea level rise—which is happening faster than previous models predicted—leaving coastal cities like New Orleans more vulnerable to storms. And the increased heat energy in the oceans then powers stronger and more destructive storms with greater frequency.
As a result, more and more American cities are grappling with looming threat of future floods: in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New York City is allocating $300 million for a climate resiliency revamp of its infrastructure; Seattle is pushing forward with a climate action plan to eliminate its carbon emissions by 2050 and remake its land use to prepare for flooding; and scientists have concluded that, barring a massive development effort, Miami is effectively doomed.
As Mike Tidwell put it at The Nation, in ways big and small, “we are all from New Orleans now.”
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."