LSU professor discusses climate change, erosion

The worldwide energy and climate trends could cause a rise in sea level and lead to major coastal erosion along the Mississippi River Delta,” a Louisiana State University ecology professor said Friday.

“If we don’t get on with restoring the coast, we’re going to lose this area,” said John Day Jr. with the LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. “It’s frightening.”

Day spoke at McNeese State University about the potential challenges associated with the climate and energy trends during the 21st century. Within the next 100 years, he said the world could see diminished fossil fuels and higher temperatures, making it difficult to live in some places.

Day said the Mississippi River Delta’s ecosystem has an annual value ranging from $12 billion to $47 billion. But, he said, those values could be lost if the coast is not restored.

Sea level is rising an average of 3.5 millimeters per year and could rise up to 2 meters by the year 2100, Day said.

“Think of what that means for the Louisiana coast,” he said.

According to a 2009 study, natural gas, coal and oil make up 86 percent of the energy used worldwide. But, he said, “the big era of cheap fossil fuels is over.”

“We’re moving to the point where demand will outlast supply,” he said.

Because the temperature has increased over the years, the “black mangrove,” a tropical coastal plant, is covering large areas in coastal states, including Louisiana.

“There hasn’t been a freeze sufficient to kill black mangroves since 1989,” he said. “This is a local indication that the climate is warming.”

Day said the idea that shale gas production will produce natural gas for 100 years is not true.

“Most shales don’t have much gas in them at all, assuming all of them would be productive,” he said.

Day said shales that are productive — including the Haynesville Shale in northern Louisiana — “have incredible rates of decline.”

Day said more energy will be used because the population is increasing. He said there were 74 cities with more than 1 million people in 1950. In 2010, there were 442 cities with more than 1 million people.

The Gulf coast population was 11.7 million in 2000, Day said. It is projected to be 15.8 million in 2025.