Gulf of Mexico
via National Weather Service

LA - The Power of Transferring Technology for Climate Adaptation

The Water Institute of the Gulf is using models developed in the Netherlands to mitigate coastal erosion.

A key part of adapting to climate change is prediction. In Louisiana, where water is eroding huge chunks of land every year, that means looking at how increasingly dangerous hurricanes move water and sand, and which areas might flood and which won’t. Monday, I talked with Dutch scientists who make computer models that help make those predictions.

The Water Institute of the Gulf is a research organization based in Baton Rouge that uses the Dutch models to mitigate erosion and transfers its findings around the world. I spoke with Justin Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of the Water Institute. He told me the answers the institute is looking for can’t only come from computers. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Justin Ehrenwerth: We started something called participatory modeling, and what that really means is we begin with the community experience. We roll up our sleeves and really work with the community to understand what are the things that they’re most worried about. What are they seeing? What are their ideas for how to protect and restore the areas that they care the most about? We introduce the numerical models to our colleagues in the community, we get their ideas and their feedback. And we actually take their thoughts, their suggestions, and we put those ideas into our numerical models, and we run them. And then, we come back and have another session where we say, “All right, look at the results of your suggestion. That was remarkable.”

Molly Wood: It sounds like what you’re saying is, it’s really easy to run a simulation that says, “This area just won’t be habitable anymore. The end. Everyone has to leave.” And that not only is there a more empathetic way to do that, but in fact, there might be a way to run a better simulation.

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