While most of America is focused on the Olympics or the latest campaign controversies, Louisiana is in crisis.
Flooding in parts of the state during the last week is almost unfathomable. In just two days, more than 4 trillion gallons of water were dumped on the state, flooding 40,000 homes and leading 70, 000 to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Gov. John Bel Edwards himself had to be evacuated from the governor’s mansion after flooding caused a loss of electricity.
The Louisiana floods, which the American Red Cross on Wednesday labeled ‘the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Superstorm Sandy,’ have not dominated cable news nor the front pages of newspapers. President Obama, other than signing a disaster declaration, hasn’t bothered to interrupt his Martha’s Vineyard vacation of golf and fund-raisers to address the suffering residents of the Gulf. Hillary Clinton has mentioned the floods only in a single tweet, and Donald Trump has said nothing about them at all.
The general disinterest in events in Louisiana is also peculiar, given that the flooding may represent an increasingly common future for the country. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live in a coastal county, and projected increases in sea-level rise in coming decades, combined with changing weather patterns due to climate change, will put more and more people at risk from flooding and other storms.
I haven’t seen any analysis attempting to tie the Louisiana flooding specifically to climate change (always a tricky business), but the following analysis of last year’s Texas flooding by state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon is informative.
The way disaster relief and flood insurance is structured is only making the problem worse. In the short term, people who want to help should donate to organizations like the American Red Cross or others. The flooding, however, should also serve as a wake-up call that we need to make the Gulf Coast more resilient to disasters when they strike in the future.