The New York Times’ Ominous, But Misleading, LA. Climate Change Story

The people of Lousiana bayou country towns are no stranger to the conditions of their homelands. So it was with great curiosity that The New York Times published a story yesterday singling out the town of John Lafitte as being a warning about rising sea levels attributed to human-induced climate change.

The story estimates people in the area have 50 years before their town will be completely consumed by the sea and efforts are underway to try to enact levees to ensure town preservation. However, the one crucial element is missing from the Grey Lady’s story is that most of southern Lousiana (Jean Lafitte included) is built on swampland.

During May of last year, the entire state experienced torrential rains that occurred in May before Hurricane Harvey. When Harvey hit the Bayou State in August 2017, conditions were even worse.

Thankfully, Jean Lafitte was largely spared and was able to extend aid to their Texas neighbors. It does not, however, detract from the fact that the bayou of Louisiana is known to retain water and flood regularly since southern Louisiana is mostly swampland.

The Times also tried to make a similar case during December, attempting to link man-made climate change to Jakarta, Indonesia’s flood problems. However, nearly the entire account undermines their thesis since the story also describes what is typical of a developing country: political corruption, poor infrastructure and the fact that Indonesia’s capital city is not only built on swampland but regularly experiences heavy rainfalls and is near a large number of rivers. All of these conditions make the city ripe for frequent flooding in which southern Louisiana has similar problems too.

The New York Times is considered the US’s newspaper of record, and while their news coverage and presentation of stories is very good, in this case, the Grey Lady clearly had an agenda. However, 50 years is more than enough time for Louisianans and a lot can change during that period of time.

ADDENDUM: 02/25/2018: Below is an PBS News Hour interview with US Representative Clay Higgins who represents the southern Lousiana area in question in the U.S. House of Representatives. In it, Rep. Higgins is questioned about his views on climate change and sea level rise, in which Higgins points out sea levels going up are a regular occurrence in the area.