by Bradley G. Oster
The impacts of climate change combined with aggressive development are wreaking havoc throughout the State of Louisiana. Take this past year, for example. From August 27, 2020, to August 29, 2021, hurricanes and floods caused an estimated $104.5 billion in damages in Louisiana. The impacts of climate change are not limited to New Orleans or the coastal parishes, though. In fact:
Flooding—be it from storm surge, persistent high tides, increasingly heavy downpours, or rivers swollen from up-basin precipitation patterns—affects populations throughout the state. Even floods that do not force people from their homes disrupt lives, add financial and emotional stress to individuals and families, and strain resources that could be invested elsewhere.
This is particularly true for homeowners. Following hurricanes Laura and Delta, it took 14 months for federal aid to arrive in southwest Louisiana, where many “homes still bear blue tarps and await roof repairs, businesses remain boarded up,” neighborhoods appear abandoned, and thousands remain displaced. Moreover, multiple homeowners’ insurers have been forced out of business; home insurance rates are expected to increase by five to ten percent; and federally subsidized flood insurance, through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), is “expected to produce phased-in increases of more than 129% for around half of Louisiana policyholders,” while about 10% of Louisiana policyholders could see an increase upwards of 400%.
Louisiana touts itself as being resilient and “Louisiana Strong.” However, the reality is that Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the country, is among the most vulnerable states to the impacts of climate change, and its population, and thus its tax base, is amongst the most rapidly declining. While recent plans were announced to address greenhouse gases and industries of the state, concerted efforts aimed at “land use policies hold the greatest long-term risk reduction potential.” For Louisiana to be truly resilient, it is incumbent upon local governments, “[u]sing their state-delegated land use authority[,] together with state and federal assistance[,] . . . [to] create disaster-resilient communities that have increased capacity to adapt to the effects of natural disasters; this would result in less property damage, environmental impact, and loss of life.”