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Maps reveal how climate change is poised to drown Louisiana

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Rising seas and eroding grounds are poised to swamp southeastern part of the state and half of all US oil refineries, investigation reveals

Screenshot of ProPublica's comprehensive map investigation into the effects of rising seas on coastal Louisiana
Screenshot of ProPublica's comprehensive map investigation into the effects of rising seas on coastal Louisiana
ProPublica/NASA

The fragile state of coastal Louisiana's defenses against rising seas were laid bare nine years ago to the day, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. But the horrific damage to life and property caused by that storm pales in comparison to what is projected in the coming few years and decades: ProPublica and local New Orleans independent news site The Lens collaborated on a comprehensive and beautifully designed investigative report revealing seas along the entire US coastline are poised to rise between 1.5 and 4.5 feet by 2100, while the coastline along Southeast Louisiana is on its own expected to experience a water level increase of 4 to 5 feet.

That would mean that most of the area known as "the boot" — which includes half of America's working oil refineries — would be underwater, a fact illustrated starkly by The Lens' and ProPublica's expert use of interactive, layered maps . And if you doubt the urgency of those projections or the reality of climate change, consider this: already, rising seas and eroding grounds have resulted in Louisiana losing 25 percent of its usable land (about 1,883 square miles) since 1930. It's honestly difficult to even conceive of the destruction that's in store unless drastic steps are taken to protect Louisiana's coastline. Read the full report from The Lens and ProPublica and just try not to be affected. And if that's not enough for you, take a look at the UN's latest report on climate change, which projects more catastrophic effects around the world.

This story has been updated and corrected to cite The Lens.