Climate change is a crisis for Louisiana

Posted on October 10, 2018

For years, scientists and policymakers have used a temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels as a target for the maximum rise in the global climate that Earth can sustain while limiting the catastrophic effects of climate change to the environment and to human populations. A new study suggests that even this number is too high, and that without massive, and immediate worldwide adoption of renewable energy sources and transition away from fossil fuels, profound changes to the global environment will be unavoidable much sooner than many think. As Bob Marshall explains in The Times-Picayune/, the clock is ticking particularly loudly for Louisiana:

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a new report stating that the world has just 10 years to cut greenhouse gas emissions by staggering 40 percent or the planet will be locked in to dramatic impacts from warming before the end of this century. That includes sea level rise high enough to swamp most of Louisiana below Interstate 10. Louisiana has about 10 years to find a large, recurring funding source for its coastal plan, or it will have to begin dramatically reducing the number of projects or abandon the plan for other options, including retreat. Louisiana’s coast also has already suffered the impacts of climate change. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, which runs the coastal master plan, uses a straightforward analysis to decide just how much of the coast it can rebuild and strengthen. The key variables are how fast an area is sinking, how fast the sea is rising and how much sediment it has to work with. When the plan was introduced in 2007 CPRA computers indicated if all the projects were built on time, we could be building more land than we’re losing in aggregate by 2067. The 2017 edition retracted that claim. The agency now says we are locked in to losing another 1,200 to 2,800 square miles of the land below I-10 by 2067. The reason: sea level rise estimates have been steadily rising because emissions have not been slowing quickly enough. Indeed, the worst-case scenario for sea level rise in the 2012 edition of the plan is the best-case scenario in the current version.

According to a Washington Post account, the report notes that: “To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels would require a ‘rapid and far reaching’ transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has simply never happened before. ‘There is no documented historic precedent’ for the sweeping change to energy, transportation and other systems required to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius.”


Cities lead the way in LGBTQ protections
Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people experience discrimination and harassment, but Louisiana offers no statewide protections that would shelter LGBTQ residents, visitors and workers from discrimination. A new report from the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation Institute, however, shows that New Orleans and Shreveport are leading the way in implementing city policies to fill that gap. The report awards New Orleans 97 points and Shreveport 77 points out of a possible 100, indicating those cities’ institutional commitments to protecting LGBTQ people within city limits. Route Fifty’s Kate Elizabeth Queram reports that a record 78 of the 506 cities surveyed earned perfect scores in this year’s report:

“From San Antonio, Texas to Brookings, South Dakota—this year’s MEI again proves that there are no barriers to municipal LGBTQ equality for a city with dedicated, pro-equality elected officials,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Forward-looking leaders across the U.S. are stepping up, protecting their youth from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ increasing anti-bullying protections, ensuring transgender city employees have access to inclusive health care benefits and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in all areas of life.”

Other Louisiana cities extended few or no protections to LGBTQ people, with Lake Charles and Monroe, which earned no points, at the bottom of the list.


Child care access and quality
Government child care subsidies can be a great boon to working families, ensuring that children receive safe and high-quality early childhood care while freeing up parents to earn a living. In recent years, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the main federal funding source for child care subsidies, has emphasized improvement in the quality of care, in ways that have driven more children to be served in child-care centers as opposed to home-based services. Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in Louisiana: In 1998, 49 percent of subsidized children in the state were served by child care centers; by 2015, 92 percent of subsidized Louisiana kids received care in a center setting.

A new report by the University of Chicago’s Julia R. Henly and the Urban Institute’s Gina Adams indicates that this change has inadvertently made it more difficult for poor families to access the subsidized child-care that enables them to work:

As policymakers have increasingly pursued a child developmental focus with CCDBG policy, center-based care has increased its share of the subsidized child care market. In this report, we raise concerns that such a shift could inadvertently reduce the accessibility of subsidized child care for the millions of American families for whom center-based care is unavailable, unviable, or undesirable.

Access to center-based care is particularly challenging for families who need care during non-standard hours, families with infants and toddlers, families living in rural areas, and families who have children with special needs.

Children in these four populations make up a substantial proportion of all children who could be eligible for child care assistance; they also need high-quality child care alternatives while their parents work or participate in education and training. To effectively ensure that the full range of eligible families can access subsidized quality care, we argue that it is essential to ensure that families can use their subsidies in a range of programs that meet their needs.


A preventable tragedy in the French Quarter
Days before he participated in the assault and robbery of two French Quarter tourists, Dejuan Paul heard voices in his head telling him to commit murder. His supervisors at Covenant House called the police, and who took him away for observation. But 27 hours later he was released, despite doctors’ notes that described him as “a potential threat to himself and other people as well as gravely disabled.”  Richard A. Webster of Times-Picayune traces the tragic series of events to a penny-wise, pound-foolish disinvestment in mental health services – particularly the type of inpatient beds that Paul clearly needed.

As the number of psychiatric beds decreased, demand exploded. Behavioral health admissions to UMC have increased by 45 percent over the past three years, from 1,585 in 2015 to 2,291 in 2017. This year, the hospital is on pace to have more than 2,400, creating an untenable situation where doctors are forced to triage the mentally ill. … This approach has both human and financial costs. Instead of investing in Paul’s mental health care on the front end, the state could now be paying more than triple that amount to incarcerate him for nearly a decade. It costs $31,000 annually to house an inmate with a mental illness compared to treating the person with community health services, which cost about $10,000, according to national statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


Number of the Day:
$18,142 – Average annual premium for a family health plan for the bottom 90 percent of income earners in 2016, including both employer and employee contributions. In 2016, health care premiums totaled 51.7 percent of average earnings for the bottom 90 percent, a 26.1 point increase over 1999. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)


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