The Big Uneasy
In Louisiana, the sea-level rises caused by global warming aren’t the stuff of dry scientific reports; they’re already a local reality. Up to 35 square miles of the state’s wetlands get a little too wet every year — they disappear into the Gulf of Mexico. To date, Louisiana has lost an area the size of Rhode Island. Low-lying areas that have suffered years of poor environmental management are so endangered that the Red Cross estimates that a major hurricane in New Orleans could claim from 25,000 to 100,000 lives. Virtually every other Atlantic and Gulf coast state also is likely to face significant land loss and weather-related damage by mid-century, with as much as 23,000 square miles of land disappearing in the worst-case scenario. “We’re not going to be the only ones in the boat,” says Al Naomi, a project manager in the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We’re just in the boat first.”
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