Impacts and Adaptation Options in the Gulf Coast

This report from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) reviews observed and projected changes for the Gulf Coast regional climate hazards, as well as potential impacts and adaptation options. It specifically details the impacts from sea level rise, wetland loss and hurricanes, and further examines the risks that climate change poses to the region’s energy and fishing industries. The report concludes that climate impacts are already occurring across these sectors, and outlines adaptation measures that can be implemented, while reducing the region’s vulnerability and the costs associated with future impacts.

The coastlines of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama combine to cover almost 12,427 miles, and the physical geography of this coastline contains several features that make it especially vulnerable to climate-related hazards. The rate of relative sea-level rise (RSLR), or the combination of land subsidence and sea-level rise, is higher in this region than anywhere in the nation, particularly in coastal Louisiana, where rates of RSLR reach three feet per century. The combined effects from sea-level rise, wetlands loss, and hurricane activity pose a serious threat to the human welfare and the ecosystems along the coast. Adaptation options related to these specific impacts are outlined within each impact section.

Information about the scale and relative importance of the energy and fishing industries is also provided, as well as insight into potential vulnerabilities of these industries to climate change - with some adaptation options identified for those industries as well. In the analysis of the Gulf Coast’s energy industry, which comprises about 90 percent of the region’s industrial assets, the authors found significant risks from hurricanes, sea level rise, rising temperatures and drought - notably the considerable damage the energy industry sustained from recent hurricanes in 2004, 2005 and 2008.

For the region’s other major industry, fishing, the report details major infrastructure risks, especially relating to coastal docking and fish processing. Fish and shellfish populations are also vulnerable to climate impacts, with a combination of warmer water, ocean acidification, and excessive runoff from the Mississippi River combining to increase the risk of large-scale changes in the Gulf ecosystem.

The report’s lead author is Hal Needham, a researcher at Louisiana State University’s Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) and an expert on hurricane storm surges in the Gulf Coast. The co-authors are David Brown, an assistant professor in LSU’s Department of Geography and Anthropology, and Lynne Carter, associate director of SCIPP. 


Publication Date: June 2012

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  • Assessment

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