Global warming is one of the most dire international issues of our time. Greenhouse gases have undoubtedly led to an increase in the Earth’s global surface temperature, according to NASA, by roughly .8°C (1.4°F) since 1880. As the global surface temperature continues to increase, cities and communities worldwide will be negatively impacted by rising sea levels and subsequent flooding, especially those located by coasts. New Orleans has already experienced catastrophic flooding and weather events, and with a levee system already in place, the city has been familiar with rising sea levels for decades. However, as global warming continues, new environmental perils will surely present themselves to New Orleanians and those living nearby.
New Orleans has anticipated how global warming will affect the city in upcoming years. In July of 2017, Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, released a letter to the public announcing the city’s commitment through a plan called “New Orleans 2030″ The plan pledged to create a more sustainable future as set forth by the provisions of the international Paris agreement signed in 2016 to address global warming worldwide. “50% by 2030” is New Orleans 2030’s slogan. According to the document released by the City of New Orleans, “In 2030, New Orleans will have reduced our annual greenhouse gas pollution by 50% from what it is today. We will use 100% low-carbon electricity, take 50% of our trips in modes other than driving, and divert 50% of our waste from landfills.”
As recorded in a baseline inventory conducted by the City of New Orleans in 2014, the total greenhouse gas pollution created in New Orleans is roughly 3.6 metric tons CO2e. 50% of pollution in New Orleans comes as a result of energy use, 44% comes from transportation, and 6% comes from waste. While New Orleans produces fewer greenhouse gases than cities such as Houston or Chicago, we currently produce more pollution per capita than the second largest city in the country, Los Angeles. With energy currently producing 50% of pollution in New Orleans, the plan seems to be “Reduce, Save, Increase.” By reducing New Orleans’ dependence on carbon-intensive fuels, using sustainable energy sources, and increasing the resilience of New Orleanian energy, water and sewer infrastructure, the city hopes to see a decrease in its main source of pollution.
With the average number of days exceeding 95°F expected to quintuple to over 80 days in a year, and a projected net rise of 1.3 m (4.3 feet) in sea level in Southern Louisiana, the lofty goals of New Orleans 2030 must become of paramount importance to everyone residing in New Orleans and Southern Louisiana. Most troubling, in my opinion, is that the ground level in New Orleans is sinking as sea levels rise. The odds are stacked against New Orleans when trying to prevent flooding, and sea levels are “projected to rise (1-6 feet by 2100) combined with local subsidence projections [of] (-4 feet).” The levee system in New Orleans was previously based off of a study created in 1965; engineers designed the levee system to withstand the worst flooding possible in 200 years, but as global warming has affected extreme weather events, this design proved insufficient against major hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Katrina. While New Orleans has since updated its levee system, disaster still seems to be lurking nearby; as New Orleans continues to sink, and sea levels continue to rise, the levee system will require more upkeep and new technology to prevent catastrophic flooding events.
While creating city-wide initiatives certainly helps combat global warming, making little efforts daily to reduce our carbon footprint will help speed along New Orleans’ 2030 goals. Single-use plastics, such as disposable silverware and shopping bags, should be switched out for more eco-friendly, reusable alternatives. Recycling should become a common practice in communities across New Orleans. Walking, biking, or taking public transportation will help cut down on carbon emissions caused by idling cars in traffic. Most importantly, creating a public awareness about global warming and its threat to life as we know it, can help New Orleans 2030 see success. I urge you to check out the city’s “Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans” to educate yourself and others on New Orleans’ plans for a more sustainable future.
ALL PHOTOS: Nola.gov