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Louisiana, epicenter of climate change cause and effect?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Image source: BIC Magazine

On a recent visit from Europe to Asia and Canada, I figured I’d dip down into Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I actually thought this particular leg of my trip would be a nice, relaxing interlude where I'd get some much needed rest and spend time with an old, dear friend, Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

I think I underestimated what's going on down there. I was initially interested in simply knowing what is happening regionally in terms of needs and challenges to see how the region could be connected to some of the innovation activity we are doing elsewhere. First off, and critically, this is a vibrant, incredibly mutually supportive ecosystem that can better and more broadly be defined as the Southeastern Louisiana Super Region, or SoLA, that also includes New Orleans (!) and all of the surrounding parishes.

The SoLA super region contains one of the biggest industrial mega-centers of petrochemical manufacturing in the world (plastics, refined fuels, specialty products) with more than 100 production sites between Baton Rouge and the mouth of the Mississippi River around New Orleans. This massive industrial complex is (thankfully) moving en masse toward carbon net-zero emissions by 2050. And It's not lip service, as I found during my stay.

At the same time, Louisiana, as you know (think Katrina), is dealing with the fallout of our climate changing and has already lost thousands of miles of coastline due to erosion and sea-level rise.

This whole scenario must certainly be unique as an epicenter of climate change cause and effect. Really, where else are presumably culprits of climate change directly facing the consequences?

The state of Louisiana has been building a global center of excellence for coastal restoration modelled on the expertise of the Netherlands, but with a uniquely Cajun flare :) They are looking at everything from carbon trading and sequestering to resilience modelling (data focus on modelling flooding and coastal impact, community-based planning for flooding, etc...)

LSU (the flagship university system that is instrumental and integral to all things research and innovation in Louisiana) are developing supportive capabilities like new green hydrogen and clean solutions that link together to ensure carbon neutrality. And they just received an enormous gift from Shell toward advancing energy solutions (Geaux Tigers!).

Everyone I met is deeply committed to getting there, but doesn't yet have all the answers as to “how”. This is a great and meaningful opportunity to connect innovative solutions from around the world to solve this problem - such as from those places I have recently visited, South Korea, the UK, Europe, Canada.

Solving acute problems here will have meaningful knock-on effects around the world, no question.

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