The Collaborative Institute

Building Connections

5 Years Later: What Katrina Teaches Us


The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating visit to the Gulf Coast, commemorated this year by the worst oil spill in Gulf Coast history, offers the opportunity to make explicit connections between these two shattering events, which may otherwise be taken at face value as separate problems. In fact, they are symptoms of the same ill: a planet pushed to its limits by consumption.


Sound science- environmental, political, socioeconomic- should be the lens through which we view these catastrophes. Energy use, particularly oil use, emits an unsustainably high amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Oceans capture roughly 40% of this increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Increased carbon dioxide alters the temperature of our ocean. Since oceans drive weather patterns, as the oceans change, so do the frequency of storms, droughts, and other severe conditions. Gulf storms such as Katrina, along with the flood-inducing rains in Pakistan, and droughts in Russia, are examples of the severe weather shifts taking place globally.


Linking these symptoms is the cause of the greater ill– consumption of energy by developed and developing countries at an unrealistic rate. In an age where images of oil slicked pelicans and 36"+ high water levels can travel around the world with a click of a button, it is time that we start making the connections between these events glaringly obvious. 



Author: The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security (CIOCS)

The Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security is distinguished by its focus on the intersections of oceans, climate and security, and emerging associated policy and management implications. Founded at UMass Boston in January 2010, the Collaborative Institute exists to develop and communicate high-value intellectual, policy, and technical expertise to help stabilize the health of our atmosphere, coastal communities and marine ecosystems, and human/national security for all. It seeks on a global scale to create new strategic opportunities to bring innovation to science, policy and communications. Visionary, as well as opportunistic and flexible, the Collaborative Institute uses multi-sector engagement as a cornerstone of its work and uses public/private revenue to sustain its mission.

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