OPINION: Hurricane Laura shows how little has changed as climate risks grow

by Johanna Partin | Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance
Friday, 28 August 2020 15:43 GMT

Evacuees fleeing Lake Charles and the path of Hurricane Laura check into the New Orleans Marriott where the state of Louisiana requested several hundred rooms be reserved in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., August 27, 2020. REUTERS/Kathleen Flynn

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina, communities of colour again find themselves in the path of climate-driven destruction

Johanna Partin is director of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance.

As Hurricane Laura creates a wake of destruction throughout the southern United States, just 15 years after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in these same states, the awful story of climate injustice plays itself out again, tragically, in these same communities.

Much like what happened during Hurricane Katrina, communities of color are yet again disproportionately impacted not only by the hurricane but also by the oil refineries and chemical complexes, which are often intentionally and unjustly situated within communities of color and now lie directly in Hurricane Laura's path.

Much like what happened during Hurricane Katrina, many in the mainstream media are not connecting the climate change dots to this hurricane, framing and contextualizing why storms are more extreme than ever before and why they are breaking seasonal records for frequency and ferocity.

And much like what happened after Hurricane Katrina, the recovery and rebuild effort risks ignoring yet again the needs of communities of color and now deserves our undivided attention to ensure that the recovery and rebuild effort, after Hurricane Laura subsides, doesn't make the same egregious errors.

Now is the time to make sure we're prioritizing communities of color so that another hurricane doesn't disproportionately take more lives and undermine more livelihoods, and that fossil-fueled facilities are no longer located in their - or anyone's - backyards and communities.

It's past-time to transition off these dirty and dangerous fuels.

Now is the time to make sure extreme weather and worsening hurricane seasons get the climate change framing and contextualizing they deserve so that the public and policymakers understand clearly that these hurricanes are being worsened by global warming.

It's past-time that all media outlets connect the climate dots.

Now is the time to rebuild and recover in a way that prioritizes people, not petrochemicals, that places justice and equity at the forefront of all planning, not dirty energy, and that prioritizes economic, racial and environmental justice for all Americans, not just the energy executives.

It's past-time that we had our priorities straight and had an energy system that served all Americans, not just a few corporations.

Our hearts go out to the communities in Hurricane Laura's wake. Now is the time to do right for every single person on the frontlines. This unjust drumbeat has become too familiar and too frequent to forget another hurricane's reminder.

We must transition off carbon, now.