[–] OliverJones link

Thirty years ago, John McPhee wrote about this very issue. At that time a ship on the Mississippi river could go through a lock, drop FIFTY FEET, and take a shortcut to the ocean via the Atachfalaya river.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1987/02/23/atchafalaya

Just because it's not a new situation doesn't mean it's not an emergency.

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[–] zdean link

I don't think the parent comment disagrees with you that it's an emergency...I think he's surprised by the designation because it'll focus attention on the root source of the problem and make the local governments confront a not-new problem of their own making...it's a focus they may not expect or want.

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[–] killjoywashere link

> attention ... the local governments ... may not want

Having lived on the west bank, south of New Orleans, if there is anything I expect from Louisiana politicians, it's a keen pursuit of their personal, short-term self-interest. If they can each make $50,000 by dumping 50B in the Gulf, they vote "yea" before their sclerotic arteries see another hypertensive heartbeat.

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[–] cmpb link

Snideness aside, I agree that LA politicians are (largely) more likely to take the money and run instead of helping guide that money to where it would make a difference. One can only hope that Edwards's attitude is itself not self-interested. I think it's a reasonable hope, though, given that we've yet to see Edwards do anything nefarious* with large amounts of money despite the fact that he's seen lots of money pass through his office (e.g. with the recent flood money).

* I might be uninformed on this point. If anyone knows about some poor money-handling from his office, feel free to correct me

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[–] hyperpape link

Can someone explain the following bit from that article to me:

"As the mouth advances southward and the river lengthens, the gradient declines, the current slows, and sediment builds up the bed. Eventually, it builds up so much that the river spills to one side."

I'm having a little trouble understanding it. What does it mean for the mouth of the river to move southward? Does sediment build up and create new land near what used to be the mouth?

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[–] munificent link

> Does sediment build up and create new land near what used to be the mouth?

Yes, exactly right. This is what the entire southern coast of Louisiana is.

Envision the river like a wiggling hose spewing out water and sediment. As the sediment piles up in one area, that eventually is no longer the easiest path to the Gulf, and the hose jigs off to one side, finding a better path. When it does, it leaves behind huge, flat, fertile floodplains, bayous, and marshes. Then the new course too eventually fills up and it picks a new course again, often one of the previous ones which is now relatively more appealing.

It's been doing that for thousands of years, wandering around the southern coast of Louisiana, piling up sediment that flowed south into the great bayous and swamps.

That was until the Mississippi River became a giant trade path and New Orleans its terminus. If the Mississippi were allowed to change course and allow most of its water to reach the Gulf by going through the Atchafalaya River, the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans would be left dry. Meanwhile, Morgan City would be washed into the Gulf.

To prevent that, the Army Corps of Engineers has, for decades built barriers along the sides of the Mississippi to force the water to stay in that channel. Those barriers in turn reduce friction and cause the River to flow faster and faster. That means that instead of building up sediment at the current end of the river, that stuff is getting washed farther out into the Gulf.

Meanwhile, the Atchafalaya Basin and other areas which would have gotten their "turn" and had their own deltas built up have been left to erode with little new sediment coming into them.

This has been a well-known problem for longer than most of us have been alive. In the early 90s, I did a science project as a kid on it. But New Orleans has never been known for its long term planning. ("Laissez les bon temps rouler.") See also: Hurricane Katrina, which was an infrastructure failure more than a weather disaster.

So here we are.

Prediction: The only intended goal of this measure is to suck more federal cash into Louisiana which will be used to line political pockets. No real substantive ecological or infrastructure changes will come of it.

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[–] snowwrestler link

Sediment carrying capacity in water is affected by current speed. Even a slow moving river slows down when it hits the ocean. Then the sediment it is carrying settles out to the bottom.

Over time this creates an underwater mound that acts like a barrier to the current. So it deflects to one side or the other (or both). Then the sediment builds up in that new location until the current deflects again.

Over time this builds up a fan-shaped extension of the shoreline called a delta. The river might flow out through any number of channels through the delta, and it might change often.

The bigger the river, the bigger the delta. The Mississippi has a huge one... which New Orleans sits on top of.

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[–] sizzzzlerz link

For now, any way

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[–] Filligree link

Yes, basically. This is a fairly textbook river delta.

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[–] bluetwo link

It makes more sense if you understand the old/new river formation and how they create one another (and oxbow lakes).

Here is some more info.

http://cbsd.org/cms/lib010/PA01916442/Centricity/Domain/1622...

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[–] DanielBMarkham link

Exactly. Beginning with the breakup of the Great Log Jams in the 1800s, this area has been extensively hacked by humans to do something it naturally does not do.

At some point, the river is going to go back to the way it's supposed to be, Army Corps of Engineers be damned.

c/f http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1987/02/23/atchafalaya

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[–] egypturnash link

Agreement on the mismanagement, I grew up in NOLA. High school taught me that pretty much 50% of Louisiana's land comes from the Mississippi jumping its banks and dumping silt into a new area for a while. Once you have cities lining a river's banks there's a strong economic pressure to try and keep the river where it is, despite the slow loss of land to erosion.

I don't think it's an either-or, though. The delta's generally pretty close to sea level (NOLA averages about 5ft below IIRC) as is, and when the seas rise, that means more Gulf and less Louisiana Delta. It'll just vanish quicker because we haven't been letting the river refresh the land for a few centuries.

Ultimately it becomes a question of how much money anyone is willing to dump into this; I wouldn't be that surprised to see the city I was born and raised in become either New Atlantis or New Venice in my lifetime.

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[–] selimthegrim link

On Louisiana Public Broadcasting last night they played this documentary about traditional coastal restoration techniques:

https://vimeo.com/212104220

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[–] grigjd3 link

Having lived in the area, there's pretty much no-one there who is confused on this.

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[–] splawn link

Rising sea levels due to AGW is a contributing factor[0]. Living in an area (whose economy is) also dominated by the oil industry, I understand why you and the people living in your area tend to be confused on this.

[0]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314081553.h...

EDIT: added source link

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[–] paulsutter link

> they were able to calculate how rapidly sea level is rising with respect to the coastal wetland surface

Your link doesn't support your claim. It says region has a higher-than-average relative change. The sea doesn't rise locally, but the ground can sink downward locally.

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[–] splawn link

The fact that there is a global average sea level rise to compare it against does.

EDIT: I gave you an upvote for at least reading my source, thank you.

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[–] MisterBastahrd link

You're being condescending. Everyone in the area knows that the main culprit in losing coastline isn't AGW but the taming of the river, essentially dumping sediment that used to build the delta over the continental shelf, and all the channels cut into the marsh.

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[–] splawn link

My apologies, I didn't mean to be condescending. However, It is a fact that sea level rise is a large factor in this, even if it is not the "main culprit". Most people in that area rely on the oil industry either directly through employment or indirectly through the local economy so they tend to have a blind spot when it comes to AGW, which is completely understandable.

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[–] adolph link

If sea level rise were a seriously contributing factor to the Louisiana coastline problem then other Gulf coast states with similar topography (Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas) would have a similar emergency. As far as I can tell, they don't to the same extent. How would you explain that sea level rise affects Louisiana more than other Gulf coast states?

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[–] splawn link

Every one of those states you listed are experiencing increased coastal flooding thanks to climate change and yes that flooding damages marshlands.[0]

Nowhere have I claimed that the issue in LA is solely AGW.. only that the sizable portion of the problem that is caused by AGW is going to fall on deaf ears in that region because of the amount of oil money there.

[0]http://www.evergladesfoundation.org/2016/10/14/this-weeks-ki...

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[–] self-diversity link

So let's stipulate you are correct. What does it matter? You've made some noise but shed no light at all.

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[–] splawn link

If you are stipulating that I am correct, you still consider truth to be "noise" rather than "light"? I guess I am not following your point.

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[–] killjoywashere link

Having lived in the area, I will attest that a significant number of locals definitely have a blind spot about oil's contribution to AGW. However, AGW is not their primary problem, nor is it something they can do much about (yes, there are things they can do, and some do them). But they, and only they, can move their local dirt around, so they're doing what they the can do.

Interesting tidbit: check out Wikipedia's timeline of party strength in Louisiana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_party_strength_in_Lo...

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[–] maxerickson link

Declaring an emergency likely grants some powers or access to funding.

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[–] maxlybbert link

That's my reaction: sure it makes a fine headline, but actually declaring a state of emergency has consequences that may not be appropriate. Yes, it is a common first step to receive emergency funding (I doubt that will work here, because it would require Congress to approve that funding). State laws may give the declaration more effect: does it waive regulations, give the state National Guard additional authority, etc.?

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[–] throwaway5752 link

It doesn't have to be one or the other. In fact, it's likely that it's both (rising sea levels exacerbating natural delta silt deposition disrupted by dredging and loss of mangroves)

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[–] _fizz_buzz_ link

Sea levels have risen due to global warming by about 20 cm in the past century. This is most definitely one of the reasons for the receding coastline in Louisiana. They are both contributing factors.

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[–] evilduck link

I lived in LA for several years. Global warming is a factor in receding coastlines worldwide, but on this particular coastline it's a very small factor relative to the complete mismanagement of waterways and marsh ecosystems. As it goes on, rising sea levels will play a bigger role in a large part of Louisiana disappearing, but right now the crisis is a different man made disaster. 20cm over a century is practically nothing for a state where a good chunk of the population lives a dozen feet below sea level and a couple dozen feet below the river.

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[–] _fizz_buzz_ link

1.) 20cm is huge. You cannot build a levee system around the whole Mississippi Delta.

2.) It is a combination of both. To put a number to it. 5–6 mm per year because of land subsidence and about 3 mm per year because of rising sea levels [1]. So, about 30 % is due to rising sea levels, which is pretty significant in my opinion. Especially because this effect appears to be accelerating. These numbers seem small, but their effect is devastating.

3.) I have also lived in LA for a year :)

[1] http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/43/6/519

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[–] hackuser link

> I lived in LA for several years.

I'm not sure how that informs you on the cause.

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[–] ska link

I suspect LA is short for Louisiana, not Los Angeles, in this context.

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[–] hackuser link

I figured. My point is that locality doesn't inform you on whether the coastline is receding due to climate change. Do people in Los Angeles know the causes of their droughts, simply by virtue of living there?

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[–] hackuser link

> The first two comments seem to associate anthropogenic climate change with the changes in Louisiana's coastline. A more likely culprit is hydrologic mismanagement.

What is that based on?

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[–] adolph link

Well, I wrote mismanagement this morning and have spent more time reconsidering the topic since. I'd guess that if people knew then what they know now, they'd do things differently or not do them. Using the word mismanagement is an unfair criticism.

If the coastline changes were significantly caused by climate change/rising sea levels then the other Gulf coast states would have problems too. The link between the control humans have exerted on Louisiana rivers, additional artificial waterways and loss of coastline is fairly well established. If you'd like more information, the below medium work seems a reasonable introduction--I scanned over it and it seems to have the main points, some nice maps, doesn't avoid the problem of sea level changes, and has some human interest stuff:

https://medium.com/matter/louisiana-loses-its-boot-b55b3bd52...

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[–] hackuser link

> I'd guess that if people knew then what they know now, they'd do things differently or not do them.

How I wish that were true. Many problems of humanity are very predictable - climate change is an easy one, but probably we can all think of some problems in the tech industry - and yet people do it anyway. If it were true, we wouldn't fight any wars.

> If the coastline changes were significantly caused by climate change/rising sea levels then the other Gulf coast states would have problems too.

That's not how it works. There is a lot of coastline in the world and the effect of climate change varies greatly. Look at just the East Coast of the U.S.: Miami is facing big problems; New Jersey is seeing some problems; New York is not (yet). Holland, with its low-lying reclaimed land, is likely to face problems long before the cliffs of Dover.

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[–] ska link

for an overview see, e.g. http://www.mississippiriverdelta.org/files/2011/11/map-100-y...

There is a pretty wide literature on this also.

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[–] specialist link

Four factors. You forgot subsidence and compaction.

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[–] adolph link

The first two comments seem to associate anthropogenic climate change with the changes in Louisiana's coastline. A more likely culprit is hydrologic mismanagement. The coastline was formed by waterways that periodically changed channels and dumped sediment in different areas. In relatively recent times cities on the existing waterways became politically influential enough for the federal government to build a series of controls to prevent waterway changes that would otherwise distribute silt more evenly along the coastline.

Given the long-running chronic nature of the coastline change, I'm surprised this is being raised as an "emergency." Given that the principal cities of government and commerce in Louisiana would likely be extremely negatively affected by an honest root cause analysis (without the Mississippian waters, they won't work so well as ports), I'd bet the powers that be will play up climate change and ask for lots of money to be pointlessly dumped in the gulf.

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[–] aaron-lebo link

...as a lover of maps I thank you for this link. Really fascinating.

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[–] AnOscelot link

Here's an extensive article on the subject of the Louisiana coast, and how the usually seen map silhouette of the state needs to be fixed.

https://medium.com/matter/louisiana-loses-its-boot-b55b3bd52...

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[–] lbhnact link

While the ACOE has a complicated role in all this, they must serve many competing interests. The State of Louisiana, the needs of the maritime industry, oil and gas interests, and the federal government that allows the situation to continue, because of the temporary economic benefits we all reap from inaction.

An incredible overview of the problem was written 20 years ago by John McPhee[1], as part of his book "The Control of Nature". Unfortunately, solving the problem in the long term means essentially undermining the entire economy of South Louisiana, and leaving the City of New Orleans destitute.

I served in Baton Rouge for 3 years and spent a lot of time on the Mississippi River. It's an extraordinary resource that much of America silently takes for granted. I with there were better solutions to save it and protect the people of Louisiana, but I don't feel like I have better answers to these questions that anyone else. It's a tough situation.

[1]: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1987/02/23/atchafalaya

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[–] scythe link

I think you've got this backwards. Sometime in the 15th century, the Mississippi's course drifted westward and crossed with the Red River (now called the Atchafalaya River) at Turnbull's Bend. From that point forward, according to the laws of hydrology, the Old Mississippi was inevitably doomed. The ACoE's ORCS acts to prevent the Mississippi from being completely diverted along the Atchafalaya.

It's the parts of the delta which are fed by the Old Mississippi which are disappearing, and this is a totally natural process. The same river is what serves the port of New Orleans. The natural course of the river can only be temporarily stayed; it will find a way around the ORCS eventually. If the river is allowed to flow naturally, the majority of Southeast Louisiana, including New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain, will disappear under the ocean.

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[–] hackuser link

People keep stating this, but what is the basis? Beyond a doubt, there will be a lot of claims out there from deniers that climate change isn't causing the problem, whether true or not.

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[–] ryanmarsh link

At issue is deteriorating coastline due to projects by the army corps of engineers. Don't confuse this with global climate change (although I'm sure it doesn't help).

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[–] mythrwy link

So Louisiana's governor requests a bunch of money from Washington.

I often cynically wonder if the true aim of some of these "emergencies" is boosting the local economy and adding jobs which presumably allows the governor to claim economic growth.

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[–] Skylled link

(Louisiana resident) I remember being taught about this issue in 2nd Grade, 15 years ago. So I agree with everyone's confusion to suddenly calling it an emergency.

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[–] vinchuco link
[–] pdelbarba link

How does this work? I don't see any explanation of the colors.

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[–] grok2 link

It was on the main page: Green and blue colors represent areas where surface water changes occured during the last 30 years. Green pixels show where surface water has been turned into land (accretion, land reclamation, droughts). Blue pixels show where land has been changed into surface water (erosion, reservoir construction).

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[–] pdelbarba link

Very cool, thank you.

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[–] tda link

You can nicely see where land turned to see and vice versa with the aqua-monitor: http://aqua-monitor.appspot.com/

A lot of the Louisiana marshes have disappeared

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[–] zentiggr link

I have looked at this situation for more than 12 seconds and although I see that it is a horrendously complicated mess, given all the competing interests and opinions and careers involved, it really does come down to "trying to harness the river was a fool's game, and you're going to have to back off and rethink this completely. Nature is taking the pieces away."

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[–] splawn link

Profits have a way of making what would normally be considered an uninhabitable place, habitable. Look at a map, pick a place that seems crazy to live and look it up on wikipedia.. there is usually a natural resource being the reason there are people there and it is usually oil.

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[–] tajen link

Not to diminish the terrible situation of the victims, but looking at maps and pictures [1], it seems to me like a very unstable land: It dried over time, diving under the average sea level, and it's been kept free of water only by humans' constant work. Didn't we do a mistake here by considering it habitable in the first place? Imagining humans as a single entity, should we have settled there, climate change or not?

[1] http://www.nola.com/katrina/index.ssf/2015/09/hurricane_katr...

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[–] fra link

I cannot help but feel some schadenfreude as we watch the majority of the US's oil refineries get threatened by rising sea level.

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[–] bkkssnn link

>Dotson gets red in the face, repeating that scientific studies showing climate change as affecting weather patterns or warming the Earth are simply wrong.

This godly redneck can tell yearly temprature average fluctuations by 0.1 degrees, and using it as anecdotal proof that climate change is a fraud.

>"The climate is exactly the same as when I was a kid. Summers hot, winters cold."

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[–] MisterBastahrd link

My dad is 70. Growing up, he'd show me all the places he used to fish with his dad where they could fill their ice chests in a couple of hours. These were canals on the side of the road, mind you. Now, you're lucky to get a bite at any of them, and unless the wind is blowing just right and the tides are perfect, you aren't filling your limit, much less your ice chest, at any of the prime fishing spots in the area. And if you ask him, he'd say "I guess we caught too many fish," completely ignoring the ecological and climate impact we've had on the area.

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[–] gavinpc link

In his mind, he's still a kid.

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[–] riffraff2 link

The fisherman denier, ""It doesn't concern me. What is science? Science is an educated guess," Dotson says defiantly. "What if they guess wrong? There's just as much chance as them to be wrong as there is for them to be right."

lol

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[–] NotSammyHagar link

That was an illuminating article. The people who convince people like this that there is no global climate change, that they should hate gays, the whole republican conservative bullshit all together plus tax cuts for billionaires are in your interest, they are evil, bad people. Like the people who argued against cigarette warnings, or the people that used the bible to argue that blacks were destined to be slaves from the bible.

We bear responsibility for our actions, me too.

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[–] arbuge link
[–] edibleEnergy link

Related ProPublica data visualization: http://projects.propublica.org/louisiana/

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[–] frankquist link

Why not both? Half of my country (NL) exists due to smart protection against water and we're doing pretty good. Doesn't mean global warming isn't an important consideration.

If someone has a broken bone, you want to fix that, but you'll also want to give them some painkillers if they're in a lot of pain.

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[–] criley2 link

Actually when you consider the global implications of climate and the local effects of shore, a local area using local money to protect local shore in the face of global inaction they are powerless to change makes perfect sense.

It is actually your position which makes no sense. "Hey 4.6 million Louisianans, sure you're only 0.00063% of world population, but protecting yourself and your land from what the other 99.9994% do is futile, you must instead convince the other ~7.1 billion humans to change so your land will be safe!"

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[–] delinka link

And what about moving industry and residences away from the current coastline over the next 50 years? Make a plan to prevent new real estate development within a certain distance of the current coast; plan the obsolescence of currently developed areas and over time reclaim them for the environment.

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[–] ItsDeathball link

That's a problem when the coastline is the reason for those industries and residences being there. It's not exactly feasible to relocate the oil refining and shipbuilding industries of New Orleans and Baton Rouge to central Mississippi.

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[–] throwaway55523 link

You need to move the decimal a couple places on your perecentages.

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[–] thesmallestcat link

Can you explain why it's silly to rebuild barrier islands, which prevent beach erosion? Is it your view that people should experience the consequences of rising sea levels as catastrophically as possible?

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[–] delinka link

If beach erosion were the problem, maintaining barrier islands makes sense. But when the ocean levels are rising and simply crawling up the beach, putting everything underwater?

Sure, we could probably engineer building up the coastline with higher land to maintain the current coastline, but at what expense? At what point do we just decide that the coastline is moving inland and we should just follow suit?

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[–] thesmallestcat link

Erosion is the difference between being able to live in a home on stilts, and having the land beneath collapse into the ocean. There is land below sea level and it experiences erosion too. Rising sea levels accelerate erosion, which clearly doesn't make it less of an issue.

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[–] delinka link

"The state has a plan to implement more than 100 restoration and protection projects — like rebuilding marshes and barrier islands..."

Sounds like a terrible plan to me. Treating symptoms instead of the disease won't solve the problem. Just because we humans are "determined" doesn't mean fighting nature like this will be successful. I'm sure the locals will feel better about their politicians for a few years and probably just long enough to 'forget' until the next time this exact problem needs to be solved.

The true options in this case are: 1) prevent rising sea levels, 2) move away from the coast. Wasting money "rebuilding" barrier islands is just folly.

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[–] dnautics link

Isn't most of the coastline damage a result of creating shipping canals and pushing brackish water further inland?

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[–] erentz link

Today. My issue is with the ongoing support for actions that will lead to the eventual destruction over decades anyway, while complaining about current or historical destruction. If the coastline is important to them today, why don't they care about it in the future?

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[–] philipov link

'I'll be gone; you'll be gone.'

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[–] bkkssnn link

The thing i still don't get is that most of these people have kids right? How can it not be a relevant issue for them ?

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[–] philipov link

I suspect there is a lot of "If I don't do it first, someone else will, and they'll be the ones to make all the profits" going on. In that kind of environment, the best thing you can do for your kids is make as much money as possible so at least they will be rich enough to enjoy whatever's left.

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[–] self_assembly link

Isn't that the definition of a race to the bottom. I have no idea how far away the bottom is, but it seems like once we get there that money might not be all that useful.

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[–] kevin_thibedeau link

I'm still waiting for the red states to prove their fiscal conservatism by not taking a disproportionate share of federal money.

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[–] neverartful link

It's not as simple as you may think. There have been problems with coastal erosion in south LA long before anyone even brought up the idea of global warming. As another poster mentioned, creating canals through the marshes lets salt/brackish water come further inland than it would have (especially with hurricanes). The salt water kills some of the vegetation that holds the marsh together. Another big factor is dredging years ago. Dredging was done as part of creating canals, but also to gather shells that were used for decades to make 'gravel' roads and such. Probably most significant of all (as pointed out by others) was putting in river control structures (primarily levees) long ago by Army Corps of Engineers. The prevents the natural build-up of silt, sediment, and alluvial soil that built up the river plains and deltas.

All of these things occurred long before there was any discussion of global warming. The state can be blamed for excessive dredging and cutting canals, but hindsight is 20/20. Putting in river control structures was considered the right thing to do back then (Mississippi River levees were built in 1800s), and certainly was not only done by those in LA.

Now comes global warming/climate change and it complicates the picture even more. The solutions to all of these problems are not mutually exclusive. Coastal erosion exacerbates the problem of rising seas for coastal areas.

Another tricky factor is where people should and should not live. It's easy (and logical) to say people shouldn't live in areas prone to heavy flooding, and if they do they should accept the possibility of flooding as a consequence of their decision. For example, the lower 9th ward in New Orleans that was completely flooded in Hurricane Katrina was known to be susceptible to major flooding (it had happened at least once before in the 1920's or thereabouts). The majority of the people that live there are poor, their families have been there all their lives, and most probably don't have the means to pick up and go someplace else.

Of course LA residents are responsible for many of these things that have occurred over very long periods of time. But when you consider the full story and where they are today, it's not like the problems in the coastal areas are only the result of global warming.

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[–] erentz link

(I think people are somehow totally misunderstanding what I'm saying but I'm not sure how to say it much clearer.)

To suddenly be concerned and have a change of heart about one historical cause of damage to your coast (dredging, etc), but completely ignore for ideological reasons another major ongoing cause that will make any fixes you do to the prior destruction pointless, is, well, bad, dumb, stupid? What should we call it?

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[–] ryanmarsh link

You think the governor knew the name of the deep water horizon before it caught fire? It was 41 miles off the coast.

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[–] erentz link

I don't get the relevance?

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[–] undefined link
[deleted]

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[–] erentz link

I have real issues with states like this where it's leaders deny climate change and prevent action on it, yet cry when issues like this occur. Similar when the BP oil spill occurred and they cried about the affect on their coast and fishing industries. They seemingly are fine with destroying their environment so long as it occurs over 50 years rather than 5 months.

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[–] gumby link

Good for the governor. Compare that to North Carolina where the legislature passed a law sticking their fingers in everybody's ears: http://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/culr/2016/03/21/north-carolin...

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[–] intrasight link

The article doesn't specify who, if anyone, is adversely affected by the disappearing coastline.

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[–] jakelarkin link

privatize the profits (oil), socialize the losses (coastline)

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[–] scottlegrand2 link

The members of the creative class who live in the major cities and take mass transit or bike or walk to work have the right idea. Bonus points for working at home or going full Mr. Money Mustache.

Unfortunately that's not practical for most people. Also, we overinvest in our highways and cars because there seems to be almost no collective will to build a national transportation network beyond that.

And I don't want to completely rag on one side of the political spectrum because if we could build a whole bunch more nuclear reactors we could solve a lot of this very quickly in the short-term.

Finally we could all eat a whole lot less beef. But I don't see any of this happening even if the current crop of leaders is kicked out the next round of elections.

There are solutions to a lot of the problems we face here in America but many of them are going to annoy both sides of the political fence differently therefore they're not going to happen. I'd love to see that change but I'm not holding my breath.

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[–] coldpie link

It'd be great if the conversation were about how we can solve these problems, but currently the conversation is about whether the scientific reality of climate change is actually a hoax invented by the Chinese. So long as these yahoos keep getting elected, we've got a long ways to go before we start talking about cutting beef out of our diet.

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[–] snomad link

Then don't take about global warming. Talk about conserving water, talk about providing cheaper forms of energy for cars / home, talk about enhancing federal / state parks, etc.

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[–] NotSammyHagar link

It sounds good on first thought as a strategy for those anti g.w. folks to move on to your second step. But tons of those yahoos act like cheaper energy in bad for people. It's bad for people selling oil, but good for everyone else.

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[–] treehau5 link

Can I still eat lots of poultry and pork? If so, I'd be down with less beef. I'm down to about one hamburger and one steak a week.

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[–] obstinate link

Yes. Cutting beef from your diet and replacing it with other meats cuts about 80% of the difference in carbon emissions between the typical American diet and a vegetarian diet.

(Although the total difference in carbon emissions from diet are subsumed by the emissions of one cross-country plane flight [1] [2], so if you're concerned about optimizing the inner loop, that's what you, as a typical reader of this site, probably need to look at.)

[1]: http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-carbon-footprint-diet

[2]: http://calculator.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx?tab=3

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[–] ZeroGravitas link

But to extend the metaphor, fixing your own code is kind of pointless if all the other code running on the box runs unchanged. Fixes need to be made to shared libraries to have any impact. This means promoting politicians who aren't taking advantage of the situation to earn kickbacks from corporations who feel they will be negatively affected by fixing the problem, and implementing things like carbon taxes so that every decision made in the economy bakes in the real costs of carbon.

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[–] obstinate link

Fortunately, this is not an either-or situation. :) I advocate all of the above, but it's important not to be in ignorance about where the real issue lies.

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[–] ZeroGravitas link

In reality, it is an either-or situation.

A small number of concerned and informed individuals trying to reduce their own carbon footprint is pointless. There's no way it pencils out to anything even vaguely worthwhile, even if they went to extremes. Even if they committed suicide and left their entire inheritance to carbon reductions it simply doesn't add up.

On the other hand, a carbon tax that introduces virtually imperceptible changes across the entire economy of the world, would actually fix the problem.

So yes we can do both, but one makes effectively no difference, even if it feels like a big deal to the person doing it.

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[–] obstinate link

Oddly enough, eating less beef did not impact my ability to agitate for environmentalism. So, no, not either or. Demonstrations of giving a shit by making personal sacrifices are powerful accompaniments to donations, voting, protests, etc.

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[–] dunham link

We usually use farmed venison for burgers, I prefer it to beef. It's about $10/lb ground from the local butcher. More expensive than beef, but cheaper than eating out. That said, we only have burgers about once a month.

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[–] obstinate link

They (we, I should say, as a city slicker myself) have the right idea, provided we don't wipe out all our annual carbon savings in one go by flying to Thailand for holiday.

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[–] pm90 link

That would be really really hard to do, for sure. Honestly, I think these luxuries that we've come to rely on, we cannot seriously convince people to not use them. We've got to find a better option.

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[–] s_kilk link

> provided we don't wipe out all our annual carbon savings in one go by flying to Thailand for holiday.

I fear this is the thing that'll prevent any real progress toward managing climate change. While everyone will accept using canvas bags instead of plastic, they also want to keep the luxuries they've become accustomed to.

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[–] obstinate link

If we as a world get serious about it and begin taxing carbon emissions from flights (and other sources), I'm confident that we'll be able to handle the problem. There is going to be some extreme global discomfort in 2100-2200, but we're not going to go extinct and things will be getting better by 2400-2500.

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[–] scriptkiddy link

I'd only be comfortable with taxing carbon emissions from flights if all of the tax money was directly funneled into clean energy research and development. Otherwise, it's just going into the pockets of politicians and funding defense contractors.

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[–] obstinate link

No, it's still better for it to be taxed than not. I would be perfectly happy to see a revenue neutral carbon tax. What the tax is spent on is orthogonal.

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[–] scriptkiddy link

No, what the tax is spent on is extremely important. For instance, if revenue from a carbon tax is funneled into subsidies for cattle ranchers, it's kind of counter-intuitive isn't it?

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[–] obstinate link

Money is fungible. Generally speaking, new taxes are not causally linked to spending on any particular issue.

Obviously, subsidies to cattle ranchers are bad. But whether they are funded from increased debt or a carbon tax does not affect their badness.

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[–] ZeroGravitas link

The other alternative is to use the tax income to offset other taxes, or even return it directly to citizens as a dividend.

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[–] scriptkiddy link

Then what's the point of the tax? I can see how airlines may funnel some effort into R&D to reduce carbon emissions, but only to the point where it becomes profitable to them. Returning the tax as a dividend to the consumer is just as pointless as the consumer is in no way obligated to be climate conscious with their capital.

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[–] philipkglass link

The point is to discourage carbon-profligate behavior by making that behavior more expensive. If you increased cigarette taxes and used it to lower other sales taxes that would still reduce cigarette use[1]. Maybe you'd get even faster reductions in smoking if the cigarette taxes were all earmarked for R&D on ways to end addiction, but making something more expensive tends to reduce consumption of it regardless of how the tax is later spent.

If you're wondering "why not use targeted legislative mandates instead of carbon taxes?", I'd say that taxes have an advantage in that they're harder to game and need fewer adjustments over time. For example, if you introduce a mandate to make cars more fuel efficient, manufacturers will tweak the vehicles they sell so they are no longer "cars" but some legislatively distinct class of vehicle, and people who like gas guzzlers will just drive those tweaked vehicles. But if instead there's just a carbon tax on fuel it's a lot harder to game your way around the legislative intent.

[1] Assuming that the balance between just paying the tax and evading the tax still favors paying it. You don't want to impose a $20/pack tax and find that you've just given organized crime a major boost.

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[–] ZeroGravitas link

That is indeed the point of the tax. For businesses all up and down the supply chain to figure out how to do what they do, but with less carbon production.

There's a whole lot of businesses where that's relatively easy, but since carbon is effectively free, they'll happily squander it for no real gain.

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[–] holtalanm link

You'll have to pry the beef from my cold, dead fingers.

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[–] 0xfeba link

Hey, I'll take a synthetic meat burger. Just get some fat on it and I'm good.

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[–] djanogo link

"They are leading people not to change their behavior and this is the result."

Rising sea level is the _result_ of Mr.Trump swearing in 3 months back?, I understand this forum is echo chamber for anti trump discussions, but you are reaching so far here.

Most peoples behavior is mainly due to capitalism, all of them, multiple generations, were raised watching ads which gets them to buy new "stuff" all the time, so "stuff" gets made/sold to keep the cycle going.

Internet and TV ads are storefront's of this "stuff". Instead of using your personal dislike of few people and spreading the message to blame them for climate change, you could get politics/personal feelings out of it, and tell people not to buy so much "stuff".

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[–] bkkssnn link

Didn't see annyone saying it's a result of Trump mabey you are just looking for somethign that's not there? But one things for sure. When POTUS flat out says climate change is a hox and dsn't get called out, we are in trouble.

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[–] Arizhel link

Not only that, but the state of Louisiana voted for Trump in the election. For them to be complaining about rising sea levels is the height of hypocrisy. They don't believe in climate change, so how can they complain about rising sea levels?

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[–] NotSammyHagar link

No one said it's trump's fault, but he's going to hurt things. He is supporting that whole view though, and his policies are going to lead to serious problems, if he is effective in getting them enacted.

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[–] _jal link

I understand people like to play semantic games around this topic, but you are beating up a straw-man.

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[–] eastWestMath link

That's not at all what he said.

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[–] ThomPete link

Dont think this is a climate change issue.

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[–] riffraff2 link

How?

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[–] ThomPete link

Read top comment

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[–] splawn link

The usual... by ignoring data and published science regarding it[0].

[0]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314081553.h...

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[–] ainiriand link

It never is.

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[–] thesmallestcat link

Maybe they look surprised because the question is misleading. They hear "name the most effective leaders in the [fight to stop] global warming."

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[–] PeterStuer link

Abstinence is the answer that can not exist in a neo-liberal society.

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[–] nickik link

And not in any other society that has other options.

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[–] ue_ link

So long as it is not a threat to profits in the forseeable future, the bourgeoisie will not care much about climate change. They will and indeed must continue to advertise and increase consumption, many requiring growing rates of profit due to loaning of capital with high interest rates.

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[–] NoGravitas link

Also, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. Individual lifestyle choices will never have the impact needed to solve systemic problems.

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[–] mr_overalls link

http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeatu...

Key finding: In comparing abstinence-only programs with comprehensive sex education, comprehensive sex education was associated with a 50% lower risk of teen pregnancy.

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[–] maxerickson link

I wonder if aggressive personal austerity could have even come close to the emissions reductions attributable to fracking.

And it's a finger in Putin's eye too!

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[–] averagewall link

What's wrong with losing coastline? There's no shortage of land in America or the world in general.

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[–] ehnto link

Entire cities will have to be moved as even a few meters of rise can flood an entire region.

It is not as if we just lose a bit of beach, if sea levels rise then everything at the new level that can be sought by water through rivers or otherwise will be under water. Not Atlantis style, but no longer habitable by cities as we currently build them.

What's more, the coastline going missing is but one symptom. Weather patterns are set to get more erratic and extreme which will cause significant damage and loss of life continuously for the forseeable future.

As we are being reactive rather than proactive in this matter, it will likely take significant disasters before anyone begins to make the changes even once weather begins to worsen and cities begin to sink.

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[–] richardwhiuk link

More so, cities are disproportionately built near the coast line as water access is very valuable for trade and commerce, so relatively little land needs to be lost for a large amount of city real estate to be lost.

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[–] nickik link

Climate change takes quite a long time. In that time there is tons of time to react to changing coastline. Normal market and political effect will move people or build defences again nature. Its not like the people in the netherlands are poor because the land is below sea level.

The argument about eratic weather is not very good. I have heard multible storm experts say that they can really not model the overall changes. There might be more and bigger storms in one area but less in another. I really think that if anybody is pretending he can predict storm frequence in 50 years is just confirming their bias.

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[–] jellicle link

> Climate change takes quite a long time

It really doesn't, when you have 7 billion people working hard to make the climate change as quickly as they can, and unfortunately we've already spent half a century knowing about the problem and doing nothing. The whole point is that we've changed major climatic change from a geological time frame to a human-scale time frame.

You'll see major upheaval as a result of climate change in your lifetime, and your children will see much worse.

The storm predictions, incidentally, are quite safe - no chance of them being wrong. Higher sea surface temperatures will absolutely lead to more frequent and violent storms; there's no chance at all of that not happening.

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[–] nickik link

Its strange to say that we 'did nothing'. We did a hole lot, the replacement of coal in many places in favor of nuclear, gas, solar wind is decently something. It was mostly not done because of global warming, but it still happened.

One to two generations is a long time.

I have listen to interviews with storm experts and it seems that they are not quite so sure about is then you. That said, it seems that compared to the world economy and what some people suggest, the damage from storms seems quite low.

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[–] averagewall link

That's a very vague prediction. It might not be worth doing anything at all, other than planning where to move cities to gradually as the need requires. If we pull out all the stops to prevent it now, we might have wasted our resources - spending more than we saved by preventing it. Almost every building that exists today was build in the past 100 years. We can surely keep up some of that work in the next 100 years.

Are there any more concrete numbers about how much destruction is expected from global warming? It's not infinite and it must be less than some amount of money.

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[–] kgwgk link

A few meters of rise will take a few centuries to materialise.

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[–] ehnto link

It is still our problem to solve, a few centuries is just a handful of generations.

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[–] exclusiv link

Because everyone is entitled when it comes to housing. When people become obese we say that's not healthy, we should change that. When people knowingly live in disaster zones we say "but they grew up there".

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[–] _jal link

What's wrong with smashing up other people's cars? We've got those all over!

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[–] averagewall link

People who buy low-lying land on the coast already know the risk and price that into their purchase. We don't need to protect them - they've already done it themselves.

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[–] spodek link

I've been asking people to name the most effective leaders in the area of global warming.

When I say my answer, they look surprised, but then agree: the Koch Brothers and Donald Trump. They are leading people not to change their behavior and this is the result. No one is leading in the direction of reducing consumption with nearly the effectiveness as them. Instead of leading ourselves, the overwhelming majority of Americans are waiting for others to change first.

In the meantime, most Americans, which I suspect includes most people reading these words, contribute more to global warming than nearly every human who has ever lived -- needlessly so, and not making them any happier.

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