In August 2016, Louisiana residents endured a devastating flood that killed 13 people and damaged nearly 100,000 homes. The slow-moving storm lasted for days, affecting thousands of people across the state.
The one in a 1,000 year flood ranks as one of the worst in history, as it caused an estimated $10.3 billion in damage. The storm produced three times the amount of rain as Hurricane Katrina, with some areas receiving more than two feet of rain over a span of three days.
The fact that a tropical storm produced more rain than a category five hurricane shows how the climate is changing due to human activities.
A team of scientists concluded greenhouse gas pollution made the massive amount of rain that fell from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14 twice as likely to happen, compared to a century earlier. Rising temperatures from climate change will slow storms more in the future.
This new trend of slow storms that produce relentless downpour seems to be sticking around, as tropical storms and hurricanes are generally moving slower over land than they did decades ago. The real problem now is to figure out how to effectively reduce greenhouse gas pollution so that storms are not able to inflict so much damage.
These trends should be very alarming to Louisiana residents because we are in a high-risk area for flooding.
The warming temperatures from climate change are producing storms with high wind speeds within the storm, but the system as a whole moves slower across land, allowing more rain to fall in less time, which can cause more flooding and storm surge.
Climate change is allowing nastier storms to form, and so far, we have done very little to combat the problem. It makes little sense to ignore an issue like this when thousands of people are losing everything they have as a result of changing weather conditions.
The frequency of natural disasters that cause billion-dollar damages are rising about 5 percent a year, on average. This fact is very alarming because the only cause seems to be climate change, yet some people still believe what we are seeing is normal and should not be prioritized.
Two major storms have devastated Louisiana in the past twenty years, costing the state and federal government tremendous amounts of money to rebuild. Usually, the more media coverage a disaster receives, the more funding the affected area will receive.
If we do not address climate change, rising temperatures and greenhouse gas emissions, our state will continue to be devastated by extreme weather events.
In response to a natural disaster, Congress decides how much aid they will provide for reconstruction and repairs. For every dollar of damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, Congress provided 70 cents. For the 2016 floods, only 13 cents was provided per dollar. Hurricane Katrina victims probably received more because the hurricane was a national news phenomena, while the 2016 flooding was more local news.
Louisiana should not expect the federal government to keep bailing us out when a bad storm hits. It is time for the state to prioritize climate change and address it, with or without the federal government.
Research has shown spending on preparedness decreases spending on recovery. Every dollar spent on preparedness is worth about $15 in terms of damage it mitigates.
Jeffrey Schlegelmilch, deputy director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, supports reforming the current plan prioritizing recovery over preparedness.
“We need to do more to incentivize state and local investments in mitigation for climate change and for other kinds of disasters, so that we’re not waiting on a bailout every time that disaster strikes,” Schlegelmilch said.
During Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans flooded, in part, because of the city’s bowl shape and elevation below sea level. But during the August 2016 storm, Baton Rouge and other cities above sea level flooded because the storm was slow and intense.
Global warming and climate change should be a main priority for Louisianians because our state cannot afford to keep rebuilding whole communities destroyed by disasters.
Louisiana residents should monitor climate change and prepare for the possibility that this is the new normal.
Max Nedanovich is a 21-year-old mass communication junior from Mandeville, Louisiana.