Reimagining Homeowner’s Insurance in Louisiana through Environmental Education and Financial Market Innovation

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient Adina Weizman spent her semester as a Research Intern with the Tulane Institute for Water Resources Law and Policy, a legal research organization that centers their work around the complex relationships between people and water. Adina is a junior who is majoring in International Relations and Environmental Studies and minoring in French and Geographic Information Systems.

This summer broke the record for the all-time warmest temperature in New Orleans on August 27th at 105ºF, breaking the previous record temperature of 102ºF that was reached earlier in the month. It was also the 13th driest August on record, with precipitation levels falling far below average. (Summer 2023 – Rolling Climatology & Statistics, NOAA) I started each morning this summer by making sure my blinds were closed to keep out the summer sun before packing a lunch, and biking to my internship at the Tulane Water Institute, a classic New Orleans house turned office next to the University. I would arrive sweaty and excited for an enriching day of pouring over climate articles and legal cases. My commute served as a daily reminder of the dangers of the extreme “heat island” effect in New Orleans, with risks including exhaustion and heat stroke.

Each day I would fill up my water bottle at the Institute’s water dispenser, feeling grateful for my unrestricted access to clean and cold water. Our morning meetings focused on recent climate change events and proposed solutions, ongoing struggles for water rights, federal and state-level attacks on wetlands, environmental justice concerns of proposed policy, and everything else under the sun. The Water Institute develops publications to deepen understanding of the vital role that water plays in our society and the importance of the legal relationships between people and water. Their research provides insight into the front-lines of coastal issues and policy considerations, informing decision makers and the public to ensure watery ecosystems support generations to come. The Institute centers front-line and marginalized communities in conversations of legal stewardship of water at a federal level, bringing attention to Louisiana resident’s needs.


I had the opportunity to work alongside experts in the field of Water Law; Professors Mark Davis and Christopher Dalbom, as well as research fellows Haley Gentry and Ximena De Obaldia. Special shoutouts to 2L Tulane Law students showing me the ropes and Jane Johnston for the wonderful conversations!


As a summer intern, I began by researching the legal feasibility of Louisiana Offshore Wind projects, looking into state water bottoms and leasing agreements. However, I soon shifted focus to begin working on a publication with one of the Institute’s senior research fellows, Haley Gentry. We spent the summer diving into the complexities of homeowners insurance on the coast, learning about the difficulties of managing natural catastrophe risk, and searching for cutting-edge solutions to the coastal insurance crises. As global sea levels rise, coastal communities are slowly subsiding, and more areas are at higher risk of flooding and damage from increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters. It is becoming more and more expensive for coastal homeowner’s to insure their homes, and many Louisianians are finding themselves priced out of the private insurance market.


I attended a webinar on June 14 called: Beyond Federally-Funded Buyouts – Local Policies, Tools and Funding Streams. The panelists were incredibly knowledgable and working on exciting flood mitigation and managed retreat projects all over the country.


My initial goal this summer was to write a white paper informing readers of housing protection policies, rising coastal insurance rates, and disaster resources in coastal communities. Before beginning the internship I misunderstood how complex these problems truly were, both legally and financially. Our research has led us down many rabbit holes of risk transfer methodology, managed retreat, and the complex nature of the insurance and reinsurance market. After an impactful summer of research, I have decided to stay on as a Fall 2023 part-time intern and finish this important publication. I hope that the white paper will serve as a community engagement and education tool for homeowners to learn their area’s climate-based risks and the current insurance challenges, while also informing decision-makers of new financial models being studied on smaller scales.


Me, eating an impossible burger outside the law school. The livestock farming industry accounts for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions (yikes).


I am grateful to have developed my skills of legal research, policy writing, and community advocacy as I worked towards finding socially innovative solutions to a multifaceted global issue. As a student researcher working towards equitable environmental policy solutions in Louisiana, I found myself challenged as I discovered small pilot solutions (often in progressive states) and scaled down financial models that have yet to gain federal support. I have come to realize that positive social innovation tends to run into many levels of political and legal hurdles, often taking years for implementation. My most significant accomplishments this summer have been my ability to grasp the complexity of risk transfer models, learning the tools to discuss challenging financial market concepts, and the way I have remained positive about the future of the Gulf coast for all those who love it dearly.


A picture of summer flooding on Oak street. Most of New Orleans is below sea level and built on loose, sinking soil, so flooding is very common.



The Tulane Water Institute has alumni student researchers and fellows that have gone on to careers where they create and set policy. These decision-makers and educators have worked on Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts, advised the governor and other policy leaders, and created the state’s first-ever Climate Action Plan to address environmental injustices. In my meetings with the Institute’s partners around the country, I found a network of like-minded professionals and academic resources to inform my work. The Institute’s focus on collaboration to bring academic resources into the water management decision-making process is directly in line with my professional focus on the intersection of law, equitable policy, and scientific planning. My summer at the Institute has set me up for a role as a lifelong change maker in the field of International Environmental policy work as I have cemented skills of purpose-driven economic research, academic collaboration, and legal writing for community education.


I read a good amount of Eugene Linden’s Fire and Flood: A People’s History of Climate Change, from 1979 to the Present, and Carolyn Kousky’s Understanding Disaster Insurance: New Tools for a More Resilient Future, to inform the White Paper. However, I read them on loan from the Institute and did not take pictures of them… but here’s a book I hope to read soon as I continue to spend my mornings at the Institute.