New Orleans: Climate Risk and Response

NO poverty distribution

New Orleans, located in southeastern Louisiana, has a metropolitan area population of 1,205,347 per the 2012 U.S. Census and an average population density of 981.8 per square mile. It is administered by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and seven city councilmembers, including the council president, vice president, and five district representatives. New Orleans was founded in 1718 on previously marshy land that has been progressively dried out and utilized for human settlement.

The overall climate change risk assessment (Mehrotra et al., 2009) for New Orleans deems it at high risk. It has a high risk of climate change-induced hazards, such as the average maximum temperature from 1904-2004 increasing .99 degrees Farenheit (, 2013). Another hazard are  steadily increasing precipitation amounts projected into the next century to be a minimum of .97 inches and a maximum of 4.48 inches, based on monthly averages (University of Adelaide, 2013). In addition, climate change is likely to cause sea level to rise and increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like hurricanes.

Due to its elevations below sea level throughout the city and proximity to several bodies of water, including the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans is vulnerable to flooding, which it has often experienced. Additionally, the most vulnerable areas of the city in terms of geography and topography also have the highest concentrations of people in poverty, according to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau. These areas have least access to cars and public transportation, impeding their daily economic, educational, and other opportunities (New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, 2013; 2013).

First of our responses to transportation and housing issues related to climate risks for the lowest-income residents of New Orleans has co-benefits. A new green public bus system, particularly serving the high-vulnerability areas mentioned previously, would help both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and introduce other sustainable and adaptive features to help reduce the impacts of climate change. These accessible transportation linkages aim to counteract the tendency of poverty to lock residents in vulnerable areas and facilitate movement of people to jobs and homes in low-risk locations. To accomplish this, we recommend introducing phytokinetic and battery electric buses by expanding New Orleans’ International Resilience Center to include transportation projects. (Phytokinetic, 2013; Siemens, 2013; City of New Orleans, 2013).

Our second response is adaptive, regarding the relocation or rebuilding of homes for the most vulnerable New Orleans citizens, including those displaced by Hurricane Katrina and those deemed most in harm’s way. We would do so by offering economic and educational incentives, such as financing for new homes or the raising of existing ones, and tax breaks or funding to attend local schools, from pre-K to university. This policy response will include reforms of zoning policies in the city, as well as implementation of an incentive system aimed at businesses, meant to spur mixed land use development in neighborhoods to decrease time and miles spent commuting.


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