There’s been a recent lull of high-profile hurricanes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, but the Gulf Coast’s vulnerabilities go far beyond the attention-getting late summer storms. By many metrics, it’s the region most at risk — and least prepared — for climate change.
A study published last year in Science magazine showed that for the country’s poorest counties, largely located in the Southeast, climate change could exacerbate already-pervasive economic inequality. If the region continues along a business-as-usual trajectory, warming could knock 20 percent off average incomes as a result of declining crop yields, rising electricity costs, and worsening public health. Mississippi doesn’t even have a plan, and for the most part, the epicenter of America’s offshore oil industry isn’t concerned with the looming disaster on its doorstep.
“Our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history,” Solomon Hsiang, the Science study’s lead author, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi coast, some communities have been largely abandoned as rising insurance costs have made rebuilding housing prohibitively expensive. In New Orleans, the unequal recovery has looked different for white and black residents.
But it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause a catastrophe anymore. Even more worrying than storms like Gordon is the increasing damage from non-tropical rainstorms. In 2016, an unnamed week-long deluge in Louisiana became one of the country’s worst flooding disasters in history. [Continue reading…]