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Argument: Global warming and rising seas run against rebuilding New Orleans

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Joel K. Bourne, Jr. "New Orleans: A Perilous Future". National Geographic. August 2007 - Sinking is only part of the city's elevation challenge. Over the thousands of years when the delta beneath the city was being formed, sea level was almost stable. But as climate change warms the oceans and melts glaciers, sea level is rising by three millimeters a year. In February a United Nations panel on climate change predicted that seas would be more than a foot (0.3 meters) higher by 2100. And one of the nation's top climate scientists thinks that forecast is far too modest. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, notes new data from satellites showing accelerated melting of the vast ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica. "If we go down the business-as-usual path," he says, "we will get sea level rise measured in meters this century."

The impact on New Orleans? A meter of sea level rise would be enough to turn New Orleans into the new Big Easy Reef—or a new Amsterdam, behind massive dikes. That's assuming that big hurricanes don't come more often; chances are they will. Hurricane frequency in the Atlantic waxes and wanes over a decades-long cycle that is now on the upswing. For this year, hurricane forecasters are predicting seven to ten hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, with up to five reaching Category 3 or above—more than double the average from 1950 to 2000. The Gulf Coast faces 50-50 odds of being hit by a Katrina-size storm this summer. Already, tropical storms in the Atlantic are 50 percent more common than at the previous peak, in the 1950s, say Peter Webster and Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The frequency of truly monster storms—Categories 4 and 5—has doubled since 1970.


Klaus Jacob. "Time for a Tough Question: Why Rebuild?". Washington Post. 6 Sept. 2005 - global sea levels have risen less than a foot in the past century, and will rise one to three feet by the end of this century. Yes, there is uncertainty. But there is no doubt in the scientific community that the rise in global sea levels will accelerate.

What does this mean for New Orleans's future? Government officials and academic experts have said for years that in about 100 years, New Orleans may no longer exist. Period.


Walter Youngquist. "Should New Orleans be Rebuilt?". NPG Internet Forum - In 2100, will New Orleans still be holding fast? Look at the photo of the sloshing levee above and then ponder the low end of the projections of rising sea levels in last year’s reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Set aside the question of whether warming will intensify hurricanes. Just look at the picture and think of an extra foot of water. How high will people willingly build such walls? Who will pay? I guess we’ll find out.


John Burton, comment on Dot Earth, cited in 2008 New York Times article[1] - After we experience the human suffering and the national financial costs from Katrina and Gustav, will we have a debate on the wisdom of rebuilding in coastal waters? We know that gradually and slowly global warming will increase such flooding.

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