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Climate Justice and Adaptive Migration in Coastal Louisiana

Authors: Traci Birch*, Louisiana State University
Topics: Migration, Urban and Regional Planning, Environment
Keywords: Climate migration, Adaptation planning, Equity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Increasingly, migration is recognized as a necessary adaption tool in response to long-term climate and landscape change. Since the 1980s, storms, droughts and floods have increased threefold, displacing unprecedented numbers of people (Laczko & Aghazarm, 2009). In 2008, 20 million between were forced to migrate or evacuate because of extreme weather, over four times the number dislocated by conflict (ibid). In some cases, people are forced to evacuate after severe weather and depending upon damage and other factors, may not return, or settle elsewhere for years or decades. This paper draws from research funded by the RESTORE Act, through The Water Institute of the Gulf, in support of the Louisiana’s 2017 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. The plan lays out a 50-year strategy for reducing climate-induced coastal flood risk through ecological restoration, structural protection, and hazard mitigation. In particular, this work investigates the state’s plan for buyouts in at-risk communities, and considers land use decision-making with regard to climate justice, equitable risk reduction and socio-cultural preservation. The researchers question how policy and planning initiatives can assist migration in ways that lead to better outcomes for both those who leave and who stay. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 30 public officials, land managers, and planning and zoning staff, and a review of prior U.S. relocation and resettlement efforts, this work contributes to planning practice and scholarship by examining opportunities and challenges with designing effective and equitable relocation strategies that help retain traditional communities and place attachment while reducing risk.

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