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Katrina - a natural and unnatural disaster

Feature story - 5 September, 2005
Greenpeace extends its sympathies to the people of New Orleans, southern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have lost so much in the wake of Katrina.

19 days after hurricane ‘Katrina’ hit, devastation is evident, with villages and towns still flooded with contaminated water from the oil industries. Local residents and officials blame a ruptured Shell pipeline for spreading oil through marshes and communities down river from New Orleans.

While the immediate effort must go into addressing the human and environmental consequences, over the longer term Katrina has many lessons to offer and should be seen as a wake-up call about the dangers of continued global fossil fuel dependency.

Greenpeace believes that as the water is pumped from New Orleans and the city is rebuilt a parallel effort should be made to wean the US, and the world, from its fossil fuel addiction, an addiction which fuels global warming and which will cause much more coastal flooding and many more extreme weather events.

Switching to renewable energy sources, which do not contribute to global warming, would also protect against future economic and energy security shocks like those suffered after Katrina. While much discussion can be made about whether or not global warming contributed to the severity of Katrina what the world's climate scientists do know is that the burning of fossil fuels will likely increase the number and severity of extreme weather events.

What does Katrina have to tell us about Global Warming?

Here's an excellent technical discussion of the issue from

More into about the impacts of Climate Change.

Climate Change and the Insurance Industry: 1993 Greenpeace report in the wake of Hurricane Andrew outlining options for the insurance industry in the wake of mounting extreme-weather related claims and the prospect of more to come.

New report from Ceres warns of rising threat to US insurers and their customers from Climate Change.

Toxic impacts

There are more than 2,000 oil platforms and 600 toxic chemical facilities densely clustered in the Gulf region.

Now, in the wake of Katrina, stories of oil spills and toxic leaks are pouring in as fast as the storm's flood waters. Early estimates indicate at least 5 large oil spills of up to 3 million litres (820,000 gallons) of crude oil - roughly half the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. But much of the region has yet to be explored, and satellite imagery suggests there are several more spills and ongoing leaks in Gulf waters.

We decided to investigate for ourselves, so we've sent a five person team to the region.

Follow their findings along with us on their new blog.

More about Katrina's toxic impacts from Greenpeace USA

Index of  archived stories from Greenpeace about toxics and toxic hotspots in Louisiana.

Animal issues

Many people have written to us about the impacts of Katrina on animallife in the Gulf. If you are concerned about animal welfare issues inthe wake of Katrina, please visit the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Animal Rescue page or any of the following sites: