Monday, March 22, 2010

Disconcerting thought on offshore drilling.

While California has managed to put a stop to offshore drilling, it is still a very big part of the Gulf of Mexico. We have seen the coastline of Louisiana and Texas become a new ground zero in the climate change fight. It began with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita storming on shore with major impacts.

Some of it could have been avoided were it not for the fact that the coastal wetlands that could have blocked the storm surge associated with Katrina had been slowly disappearing, due in part to excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers in the corn belt of the upper Mississippi River. Today, scientists are working to restore the wetlands.

The Louisiana Bayous are also the site of the first abandonment of a village due to sea level rise.
Albert Naquin, chief of the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha, recently announced that the group plans to leave its ancestral island homeland and build a new community behind levees on higher ground. He told the Associated Press the decision came because the community was flooded five times in the past six years. About 25 families now live on the island, a number that's fallen in recent years due to the constant flooding associated with global warming.
But that is not the entire story. In today's edition of Yale University's Environment 360, Michael D. Lemonick writes about the fact that Sea Level Rise does not occur equally in all parts of the world. Along the Gulf Coast of the United States, it is accompanied by a sinking of the Continental Shelf under much of the Gulf of Mexico.
And in some coastal areas — most notably along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana — the land is falling as well: Thanks to massive oil and gas extraction, the continental shelf is collapsing like a deflated balloon. “The rate of subsidence measured at Grand Isle, Louisiana,” says Rui Ponte, of the private consulting firm Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc, “is almost 10 millimeters per year, compared with two or three in other areas.” That’s especially problematic for a city like New Orleans, which already lies partly below sea level.
This makes the position of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D. LA.) all the more puzzling. While pushing for more exploration and more consumption… all in the name of economic recovery… Landreiu is sealing the fate of her own state, from subsidence, from the creation of more dead zones in the Gulf and finally allowing it to sink further into the ocean.

Is this the wisdom we expect from a Senate where the pace is supposed to allow contemplation of the full impact of an issue? It seems to be what we get. Louisiana Greens need to take this issue into the election cycle. If allowed to continue, it could be that Louisiana will be the first state to relocate climate refugees and the rebuilding of New Orleans might have been a waste of money as it sinks further below the level of a rising sea.

The lesson for California Greens is that our own California Delta is headed for a similar fate as coastal Louisiana.

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