Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the incoming administration of Jeff Landry will create a new Louisiana Resilience Task Force to reduce the effects of an expected increase in disasters affecting the state, including those exacerbated by climate change. He said he hopes the efforts will continue.
“There is nothing partisan about coming together to reduce the negative impact of a disaster on the people of Louisiana,” Edwards said Monday at the task force’s first public meeting at the Capitol.
The task force was created by legislation passed nearly unanimously in the 2023 Congress. Landry’s transition team, who will replace Edwards in January, did not respond to requests for comment.
Edwards appointed Charles Sutcliffe as chief resilience officer, a new position created by legislation. Mr. Sutcliffe also chairs the Governor’s Climate Change Initiatives Task Force.
The legislation also created an “Interagency Resilience Coordination Team,” resulting in the appointment of a resilience officer to each state agency, the Legislature, and the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Edwards said the need for resilient structures in state government became even clearer in recent discussions with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials that centered on the state’s long history of disasters.
According to NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information, Louisiana had the third-highest total loss of more than $1 billion from federally declared disasters from 1980 to October 2023; exceeded the dollar amount.
Texas came in first place with an estimated $300 billion to $400 billion, followed by Florida in second place with an estimated $300 billion to $390 billion.
As expected, hurricanes and tropical cyclones accounted for most of the damage, but the list also includes droughts, wildfires, floods, and winter storms.
“In the past eight years, we’ve never stopped to add up the state disaster declarations and the federal disaster declarations,” he said. Added declarations for up to 50 states and 24 federal states.
“I remember the floods of 2016. It was an afternoon thunderstorm that stayed for several days and dumped an unprecedented amount of rain, making it a once-in-500-year event,” he said. Ta.
Sutcliffe provided an overview of the state’s initial resilience efforts using the just-released draft of the 2023 Louisiana Statewide Resilience Annual Report.
2023 Louisiana Statewide Resilience Draft Annual Report
He said the risk to the country from such disasters can be divided into three parts. the exposure of people, industry and government services to its effects; and the underlying vulnerabilities posed by hazards due to poor communities, lack of education, or a combination of hazards and disease.
The ripple effects of these combinations could cause economic, health and environmental disruption, he said.
Less obvious impacts, Sutcliffe said, include falling house prices and the availability of affordable housing, rising unemployment and fewer hours for employees, reduced personal savings and rising costs. These include the lack of access to health insurance, poor public health and poor health conditions. Mental health, children missing school, the breakdown of social networks as people migrate or move out of state, and the destruction of forests and wetlands in urban and rural areas.
The goal of this program is to not only improve our ability to cope with disasters when they arrive, but also to reduce their impact.
“We’re not just updating our expectations for how we’re going to deal with rainfall and flooding to a new number of 10 to 12 inches, we’re dealing with consistent changes that will continue into the future,” Sutcliffe said. Stated.
That includes recognizing that existing capacity to deal with slow-moving events, such as recurring droughts and their effects such as the risk of wildfires, is poor, he said.
Sutcliffe lists five “pillars of resilience” strategies:
- Reduce the vulnerability of the population to all types of disasters.
- Build cooperative structures within government agencies and local communities to respond in the event of a disaster.
- Leverage real-time data to drive decision-making.
- Strengthen natural systems and state infrastructure before disasters occur.
- Promote economies that are resilient to future climate change.
Edwards cited early successes by his administration that resulted in billions of dollars in resilience investments.