Meet America's first climate refugees | TreeHugger
Accessible only by an hour-and-a-half long ferry ride from the coast, Tangier's community of fishermen may become the country's first climate change refugees. Residents of a Louisiana island are being paid by the government to move out because their homeland is washing away. Americans: the next climate migrants 'I hate the term climate refugee' We will be the first ones to face this in the modern US but we won't be.
I do believe that climate change is just a phase that the earth goes through to cleanse itself. Harold, good to meet you. University of Miami professor Harold Wanless has been tracking the tides here for decades. How long have you been trying to warn people about the rising sea levels here in Miami? My first talk is, was, I know I gave one in In the last decade alone flooding in Miami Beach has increased by per cent.
The city has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to stem the problem. This road has been raised about two feet. I can go down here and this is, this is would be the sidewalk level of the old place, okay? And so they raised it up where you are. And is this enough of a raise do you think, to stem the water? Well we are going to have another two feet of rise according to US government projections, probably by or maybe earlier.
So they're going to have to raise this again? And again, and again and it's going to get faster and faster. Predicting sea level rise is still an active area of research meaning some scientists would argue that it may not rise this quickly or by this much.
But Professor Harold Wanless says even with conservative estimates the future for Miami does not good. Do you think this city as we know it, will be here in years? It won't be here in years. It will either be a few stragglers trying to hang on to a city that has no, no infrastructure, no fresh water, no sewerage facilities or it will abandoned completely. The sprawling estate of Mar-a-Lago has become a de facto White House.
So will this place exist as we know it in years? If I'm right, this will be something you can go snorkel on.
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- Louisiana's Climate Change 'Refugees'
It will be quite famous - it will be a former president's mansion. It will be a former president's mansion, in Atlantis. This will no longer Palm Beach, this will be Atlantis 2. This will be a very popular dive site. We're at my grandma and grandpa's house on the island.
We are all down here celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary. Your grandparents have been here all their lives, right? They're 90 and Hi, thanks for having me. This is one of the last family milestones the Billiots will celebrate here. The Billiots have a house in Louisiana's Isle de Jean Charles that for seven decades has been a home for their sprawling family.
I am not touching the fish. It was the first time federal tax money had been granted to move an entire community reeling from the effects of climate change.
Of course nobody wants to leave you know but I think they understand that for safety, it's for their safety. This Island is about to stop being home to the Billiots. They are Biloxi Chitimachi Choctaw Indians whose ancestors moved here in the s after being forced from their lands. For years the Billiots have lived, loved and died here. Well, I was born in When I was a kid, I used to go walk over there. It had marsh land. So it was marsh land? You can walk over there. It was hard but now, nothing but water on both sides of the island, same way.
Isle de Jean Charles is sinking!
Meet the 'climate refugees' who already had to leave their homes
And as the land disappeared so too did the people. So there were about families here when you were growing up? When I was growing up, yeah. And now there's like This place right here was where your house used to be. Yeah, where the, where they cut from right there to by that tree over there with that other tree. And what happened in '85? Hurricane took it, Hurricane Juan and we got flooded twice in the same year.
We ain't spending no more money for nothing. Just down the road from the Biliots lives Chris Brunet. For years his family has resisted leaving the island. We go back here on Isle De Jean Charles around seven or eight generations. Yeah, I have my niece and nephew that live with me over here and so whatever is over here it would be theirs. But then by the time they would be my age, that's a great uncertainty you know I could see 10 years down the road Isle De Jean Charles will still be here but then another 40 years after that?
For Chris, leaving is less about his family history and more about his family's future. Looking at the difference now you see all the trees and you don't see them anymore.
It was so much prettier here. If we stay here maybe, his generation it will be okay for it but not for like me and my brother. Me and my brother, it will probably land will be gone 'cause look at that picture here, you can see how much land they had before and, now, they barely have any.
And so how far is this location from the island? Probably about 35, 40 miles I guess. So what are we looking at here? We're looking at the new site for our new community. And what kind of things were you looking for in a new property? The highest property we could find in Terrebonne Parish. So this area is out of the flood zone so that's what we're looking for. And how big is it all up?
It's probably right there around acres. On average, the state loses a football field of land every hour. Scientists say, this is exacerbated by rising seas levels caused by man-made climate change.
America’s First Climate Change Refugees
What do you think is causing all of the problems that you're facing with the environment on the island? Do you believe it has anything to do with climate change or with global warming and warming sea levels?
I mean climate change is here but I don't believe that the island was affected that much by climate change as we know it today. But people would point to you guys and say that you're ground zero of climate change. Well, maybe we are.
But I don't know if we really are. We see the changes as, as manmade and Mother Nature together that rooted up all the land around us. Do you think if Donald Trump was to visit do you think that he would come around?
I think he would. Think his heart in the right place, it's just that he's hard headed like I am. It's hard to, to kind of change, make changes in what you see until you actually see it. If seeing is believing, then President Trump should visit Kivalina, Alaska.
Like Isle de Jean Charles, Kivalina is predicted to soon be inundated by water. I suffered a lot of loss, but others suffered much more.
Exactly one week before Harvey, I had the first monetary offer for my home. But I had to get somewhere away from the flood plain. I went back to the old house after they razed it. I bawled like a baby when I heard it had gone but I drove up to see it. I had six pecan trees, a grapefruit tree — they had left them there next to the grass. It was like a pocket park.
Anyone can enjoy that park now. My father bought a house in Miami Beach back in the day. Back then, it was pretty laid-back.
Now, the development is crazy. The house is for sale because I want to get the value out of it before the shit hits the fan.
America’s First Climate Change Refugees | SBS Dateline
I want to get away from all the craziness, ripping up the streets to raise them, putting in new sewers, water pumps. The traffic is crazy. I saw that the barnacles were getting higher up the bridge pilings. Barnacles have to be in water all the time, and they were getting higher and higher, moving by inches.
I used to catch snapper, groupers, Spanish mackerel, amberjacks. I had 11 people working for me.