Oct. 21, 2010 04:25 PM

The Gulf Coast is looking at losses in the range of $350 billion to $700 billion by 2030 if immediate steps are not taken to address coastal erosion and climate change, according to a new report commissioned by New Orleans-based utility company Entergy and the America's Wetland Foundation.

The Gulf Coast is looking at losses of $350 billion by 2030 if immediate steps are not taken to address coastal erosion and climate change, according to a new report commissioned by New Orleans-based utility company Entergy and the America's Wetland Foundation. The report states that depending on the rate of climate change effects, those damages could easily escalate to as much as $700 billion. The study was conducted by Swiss Re, a Zurich-based reinsurer and New York research firm McKinsey & Co. The scope of the research included a Gulf coast strip up to 70 miles inland across the shoreline from southern Texas to Alabama.

The report is a call to arms for policy makers and recommends spending $50 billion on overhauling building codes and reinforcing beaches and restoring wetlands. The study concludes that "economic losses will increase by 50-65 percent in the 2030 timeframe driven by economic growth and subsidence, as well as the impacts of climate change." While damages vary year to year, the Gulf Coast currently faces annual losses averaging $14 billion from hurricanes and storm surge, the report says.

The $350 billion damage estimate over the next 20 years means that 7 percent of total capital investment for the Gulf Coast area and 3 percent of annual GDP will go towards reconstruction activities. The report also adds that in the 2030 timeframe, "hurricane Katrina/Rita-type years of economic impact may become a once in a generation event as opposed to once every 100 years", as is estimated today.

Read a release on the report and its executive summary at the America's Wetaland Foundation website.