October 21, 2010

Gulf Coast Damages Could Soon Top $350 Billion

Communities in the Gulf Coast area, many of which have already fallen victim to devastating hurricanes and massive man-made environmental disasters, could face in excess of $350 billion is losses over the next two decades due to climate change and related factors, according to a report released Wednesday by the Entergy Corporation and America's Wetland Foundation.

According to the study, annual economic losses in some 77 coastal parishes and counties in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama could increase by as much as 65% by 2030 due to "severe climate change, coupled with economic growth and land subsidence." Currently, the Gulf Coast already faces annual losses of approximately $14 billion, and the researchers say that the three main threats to the area--hurricanes, subsidence, and rising sea levels--would likely increase in the years to come.

"The study recommends a range of economic adaptation initiatives that can prevent a large part of the expected increase in losses," Entergy said in press release dated October 20. "For example, by investing $50 billion in cost-effective measures over the next 20 years, such as improved building codes, beach nourishment and roof cover retrofits; Gulf Coast communities can avert about $135 billion in annual losses over the lifetime of implemented measures."

The Entergy/America's Wetland Foundation sponsored study, which was completed by economic research company McKinsey & Co. and risk assessment specialists Swiss Re, was presented during an America's Wetland conference in New Orleans, according to the Associated Press (AP).

"Doing nothing is not an acceptable plan. That's a plan to put Entergy out of business, a plan for misery and suffering for our customers and a plan that would devastate a region already economically impaired," the company's chairman and CEO, J. Wayne Leonard, said in a statement.

"The study is a roadmap on how we can adapt to a world that we really don't want to be living in, but may not have a choice," he added. "All the measures included in the report are meant to be a call to arms for policymakers."

According to the AP, the study focused on "the benefits of tougher building codes, better levees, restoring wetlands and beaches, changing practices in offshore drilling, such as higher standards for offshore platforms and replacing semi-submersible drilling rigs with drill ships, and strengthening electric utility systems." Furthermore, the news agency said that Leonard emphasized that "the best course of action would be to cut down on greenhouse gases and fight global warming."


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