If all you did was read sites like news.com.au, you would really think that the world is about to be overcome with ‘climate refugees’:
RISING sea levels are already forcing one American town to relocate, with warnings that many others will follow.
The US Government announced this year it would pay $US48 million ($AU63 million) to help residents of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana to move as coastal erosion threatens to sink the community.
Residents of the town have been called the first climate refugees in the US and live in a town that can only be accessed using one road surrounded by marshlands along the Gulf of Mexico.
Such is the parlous state of the mainstream media these days, I instinctively found myself Google searching ‘Isle de Jean Charles’ to see what was really going on.
Predictably, the first page of results was the usual rag-tag bunch of mainstream media outlets all co-incidentally saying THE SAME THING:
The second page was more of the same.
It was only when I changed the search to ‘Isle de Jean Charles climate change’ and made it to the third page that this interesting article came up:
The people of Isle de Jean Charles aren’t the country’s first climate refugees
Isle de Jean Charles is endangered for the same reasons that much of coastal Louisiana has become part of the Gulf of Mexico: The land is sinking, river levees are preventing it from being replenished, oil and gas drilling accelerated erosion — and on top of that, seas are rising.
In May, when the community of Isle de Jean Charles received a federal grant to relocate from the crumbling marshes in Terrebonne Parish, headlines around the world proclaimed them “America’s first climate refugees.” The label has stuck.
But are they?
Experts familiar with the issues in Louisiana and other coastal areas of the U.S. would disagree.
The issues go beyond semantics to the root of the island’s problems. If coastal researchers were to write a headline about what’s happened to Isle de Jean Charles, they have several options that would be more accurate.
Their first choice: “America’s first subsidence refugees.”
If the headline were to address the causes of subsidence, it might read, “America’s first river levee refugees.”
Some geologists think there is an even more accurate headline: “America’s first geological fault-line refugees.” They believe the major cause of the sinking is activity in the scores of faults in the area.
Although researchers agree subsidence, and all of its causes, is the primary reason the people of Isle de Jean Charles must move, they also agree that sea level rise has magnified its problems
Hurricane storm surges amplify the impact of those small increases.
So what would be the most accurate headline for the impending move by the residents of Isle de Jean Charles?
If the story followed the consensus of among coastal scientists, it would probably read something like this: “America’s first subsidence/levees/oil and gas drilling/fault lines/climate change refugees.”
I thought to myself, ‘this kind of objective stuff must have been written by some out-of-town, right-wing nut job lobbying for the coal industry’… Or not:
From 2013 to 2017, Bob Marshall covered environmental issues for The Lens, with a special focus on coastal restoration and wetlands. While at The Times-Picayune, his work chronicling the people, stories and issues of Louisiana’s wetlands was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes and other awards. In 2012 Marshall was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Loyola University School of Communications Den of Distinction.
Ever the objective reporter, Bob also managed to generously find some space for a climate church representative to have their say:
Those losses will probably become even larger in the future because climate scientists expect the frequency and duration of large hurricanes to increase as the climate continues to warm, said Virginia Burkett, a Louisiana-based U.S. Geological Survey researcher. She has studied coastal impacts of climate change for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“This is linked, in part, to warmer sea surface temperatures that are caused directly by the warming of the atmosphere,” she said.
Extreme cyclone carbon theory
Regarding Virginia’s first point, any time a climate fundamentalist like her tries to peddle extreme cyclone carbon theory, kindly tell them that:
- extreme cyclone carbon theory has been scientifically debunked – and that they should respect what the science is telling us;
- show them this picture:
- and these ones too:
Gas-liquid inversion theory
As for the second point – that the Earth’s warming atmosphere is warming the ocean – please ask any climate church fundamentalists you may come across to consider the following:
For some fun at home, take a heater into your bathroom, fill up the bath tub with cold water and close the door. Without electrocuting yourself, turn the heater on to maximum power and see how long it takes for the bath water to increase in temperature. By all means, feel free to use a thermometer. Just before you die of boredom, repeat the experiment – this time, put the heater away, empty the bath tub and then refill it with hot water. Then, sit back and experience what happens to the air temperature in the room.
I know, I know… wow.