What Pulling Out Of Paris Could Mean For Louisiana

  1. What Pulling Out Of Paris Could Mean For Louisiana

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This interview was produced for WWNO -- New Orleans Public Radio

Dr. Bob Thomas, professor and director of Loyola Univerisity's Center for Environmental Communication (TRAVIS LUX/WWNO)

Last week President Trump pulled the U.S out of the Paris Climate Agreement -- or Paris Climate Accord. When it was ratified in 2015 it was a big deal -- almost every country in the world met in Paris to agree on a way to fight climate change.

Lux: The goal of this agreement was to keep the planet's temperature from rising over 2 degrees Celsius about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit. And scientists say that more than that would be irreversible and the planet would keep getting hotter. President Trump said that the Paris Agreement was bad for industry and that was part of his rationale for pulling out. How do you think this is going to affect the oil and gas industry specifically here in Louisiana?

Thomas: I don't think it's going to impact the industry at all. I think that's a bogus argument. Because industry is about making money. We all know that. And if you put regulations on industry, and if they're a level playing field -- if all the industry has to deal with the same thing -- good old American ingenuity comes in and they find a way to make money in new economic climates.

Lux: The 2017 coastal master plan was approved last week by the state legislature. One of the ways the state makes money for that coastal master plan is through oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Right now the state takes a percentage of that money made from those leases and it puts it directly toward coastal restoration. So if pulling out of Paris might mean more drilling in the Gulf, might that actually mean more money for coastal restoration in Louisiana?

Thomas: It is sort of ironic: if there is in fact more production then Louisiana will get more money to work on its coastal issues. That is a fact. And I do think that there will continue to be a lot of production in the Gulf of Mexico because that's the trend of our country. But will there be massive expansion? I'm not so sure of that. And my sources inside of the oil industry are not confident that either.

Lux: Coastal Louisiana is sinking, largely because of natural subsidence and many other factors. But sea level rise due to climate change is going to be a much bigger factor in the future. So how do you see pulling out of Paris -- how do you see that impacting sea level rise in the future for Louisiana? And to what extent do you see this speeding things up?

Thomas: The reason that there's a huge vulnerability there is that as the atmosphere warms there is an increase in the rate of melting of glaciers. And some of the projections are horrific and scary. I think scary because we haven't ever seen it happen before in our lifetimes. But they're talking about possibly by the year 2100, having the world sea level 49 feet deeper than it is today. That would put water -- water -- almost to Baton Rouge. Somewhere between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. That's where our coastline would be. And that would not be good for people that live in coastal Louisiana. You're talking about two million people. This is not something that's simply theoretical. Now, can I guarantee you that it's going to go where all the stories tell you today? No. Do I think it will go where we're talking about worst case scenarios? Probably not. Worst case scenarios rarely happen. But something in between is still devastating.