Senator of Katrina-ravaged Louisiana tries to block climate change response centers

A key lesson of Katrina is that global warming “adaptation” is a cruel euphemism “” and prevention is far, far cheaper. But we certainly need to prepare for the catastrophes we know are inevitable — all the more so if the global warming deniers and delayers succeed in blocking U.S. climate action.  The scientific literature, such as the journal Nature, makes clear that hurricanes ARE getting fiercer “” and it’s going to get much worse.  In particular, land-falling Gulf Coast hurricanes will likely grow more and more destructive (see Why global warming means killer storms worse than Katrina and Gustav, Part 1 and Part 2).  So it is particularly self-destructive for Senators from Gulf Coast states to offer knee-jerk opposition to even the mildest of planning efforts, as guest blogger Brad Johnson makes clear in this repost.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is trying to prevent the United States from being ready for the next Hurricane Katrina. Vitter, who denies the human influence on global warming, has submitted an amendment (S. Amdt. 2450) to the Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) to block funding for centers that study and prepare for the impacts of climate change:


No funds made available by this Act may be used to develop Regional Climate Change offices within the Department of the Interior.

On September 14, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a comprehensive framework for his department’s response to climate change impacts, including the establishment of eight Regional Climate Change Response Centers under the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS has already begun the development of these regional science centers, which will “synthesize and integrate climate change climate change impact data and tools that the Department’s managers and partners can use when managing the Department’s land, water, fish and wildlife, and cultural heritage resources.”

Vitter’s amendment would be a bizarre attempt to outlaw science for any U.S. senator. However, it is particularly immoral for a senator from Louisiana. The great Mississippi Delta is under extraordinary threat from global warming, as seas rise and storms intensify. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated Vitter’s state, costing this nation $80 billion, killing thousands, and displacing a million people. Most of the devastation could have been avoided with the proper preparation and response. One major gap was a lack of understanding of climate change, which significantly intensified Hurricane Katrina. As hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel has explained, “Probably if Hurricane Katrina had happened in 1980, the levees would have held.”

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2 Responses to Senator of Katrina-ravaged Louisiana tries to block climate change response centers

  1. Seth Masia says:

    Ignorance is bliss. I believe Sen. Vitter simply wants his constituents to remain happy.

  2. Mark says:

    Honestly, I get quite tired of Katrina being invoked in climate debates and I fear it is counter-productive. It was a category 3 storm at landfall–bad, but not as bad as could have been. Many other category 3 storms have made landfall, and several category 5 storms have made landfall. The main issue with the death and destruction caused by Katrina were infrastructure and planning. Levees that should have held did not. Emergency response plans that should have removed people from harm’s way were not properly developed, drilled or executed. And the vast area of wetlands in coastal Lousiana, which can absorb some storm surge, has been destroyed by poor water management throughout the Mississippi River basin.

    I understand that harmful storms are very likely to be more common with increased global warming and that Katrina provides a powerful image for warning the public. But I believe that message is often twisted to read as though the Katrina disaster was caused by global warming, which is a stretch at best.

    The truth will set you free. I worry that mis-stating the facts can come back to bite us and actually make it harder to get meaningful action on climate.