Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
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NEWORLEANS -- The vast low-lying coastline of Louisiana is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

That's the conclusion of a new federal scientific report that predicts global warming could lead to wetland loss, more rapid coastal erosion and more frequent hurricanes.

Dr. John Lopez from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said the worst concern here is sea level rise, potentially up to an inch a year.

'Our coast is very low,' said Lopez. 'New Orleans, a lot of New Orleans, is below sea level. We already had coastal issues without climate change. If we don't have a way for those wetlands to increase how fast they build up, to keep pace as the sea level rises, what are wetlands now will become open water. When they become open water, that allows the storms to come in more quickly.'

So what causes climate change?

'Certain gases are released like carbon dioxide that are released by car engines, any kind of combustion engine are accumulated in the atmosphere and they change the way the earth heats and cools, leading to a slow increase in temperature at the surface,' Lopez said.

Bayou Sauvage fisherman Pete Gerica said he's doesn't need a bunch of scientists to tell him about the effects of global warming - he lives it every day.

'Where a guy used to make a living with, say, 250 traps, now they got like 1000 crab traps out,' Gerica said. 'That tells you the whole story right there.'

Both Gerica and Lopez say the government report is an urgent call for action.

'Most people feel like there is time to start to impact the atmosphere and our emissions, so we can reduce the impact of climate change,' said Lopez.

'Instead of leaving this nasty footprint behind like we've been doing for so many years, we better clean our act up,' said Gerica.

Scientists say that the true significance of the national assessment is that we're no longer talking about whether climate change exists, and that we're now already measuring it.

Critics are assailing the 'National Climate Assessment' as 'alarmist.'

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said the report was supposed to be scientific, but he says it's 'more of a political one used to justify government overreach.'

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