Entergy CEO: “We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of mans activities. Were virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad.”

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"Entergy CEO: “We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of mans activities. Were virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad.”"

Last week I reported on the White House Clean Energy Economy Forum — see “Carol Browner says clean energy bill without carbon cap would be a ‘big mistake’; Nobelist Chu agrees, warning we otherwise face catastrophe, with St. Louis above 90°F for 1/3 the year.”  In this repost, Wonk Room has a video and transcript of some key remarks.

Last week, over a hundred CEOs of American companies broke with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby Congress to “pass comprehensive climate change and energy policy legislation this year.” The U.S. Senate is now considering the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which would set a market-based limit on global warming pollution. Participants in a Clean Energy Economy Forum at the White House included J. Wayne Leonard, the Chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation, the utility giant based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Speaking at the White House event, Leonard called for action on climate change and clean energy not just for economic reasons but starkly moral ones:

We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man’s activities. We’re virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad. There’s no good things that’s going to come of this. But what’s uncertain is exactly which one of those things are going to occur and in what time frame. In the probability distribution curve is about a 50% probability that about half of all species will become extinct or be subject to extinction over this period of time. What we will never know on an ex ante basis is whether or not man be one of those casualties or not.

We condemn Wall Street for taking risks with our economy “” risks that all of you are trying very hard to reverse “” but at the same time we’re taking exactly the same kind of risks, with no upside whatsoever, with regard to our climate, failing to practice even the basic risk management techniques in terms of climate change reduction.

In a powerful speech, Leonard called a national system to cap carbon pollution “an investment that by all facts, figures and analysis pays back many times over,” and warned that “history will judge us if we don’t pass comprehensive climate and energy reform now” for “cheating [our children] out of their future.”

Entergy serves “two-and-a-half million customers in the mid-South and the Gulf South portion of the country, some of the poorest people in the country,” Leonard noted. These customers already suffered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which global warming likely fueled.

Although Entergy’s website warns that the “ramifications of global climate change, while uncertain, paint a devastating portrait of an unsustainable world” and that what “the United States does now is critical to eliminating or at least reducing the possibility of catastrophic outcomes for future generations,” the corporation is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is spending millions of dollars to fight the regulation of climate pollution. Entergy plans to remain in the climate-denial organization in an attempt to “convince other members to agree to emissions limits.”

Transcript:

LEONARD: Good morning. We are a broad base of businesses across America. We represent some 37 states. We touch all aspects of the economy. And we have come together this morning unified in one particular request. And that is that we pass comprehensive climate change and energy policy legislation this year. We are prepared as business to invest, to innovate, to transform the energy sector of this country and of the world “” the way we source energy, the way we deliver energy, the way we use energy.

We want to get America back in the business of exporting technology instead of dollars. In order to do that, we need comprehensive legislation. We need to know what the rules are going to be with regard to energy and with regard to climate, and particularly with what the price on carbon is going to be in the United States, if we’re to move around the world and export technology to other countries. And we need legislation in order to do that.

I’m the CEO of Entergy. We have nuclear plants around the country. We also serve two-and-a-half million customers in the mid-South and the Gulf South portion of the country, some of the poorest people in the country. People that have been through Katrina, Gustav, Ike, Rita. You name it, they’ve been through it. Nobody should ever have to suffer through a Katrina.

Last night, I was talking to Secretary Salazar. And he asked me, “What happens to New Orleans when sea level rise is not an inch from thermal expansion but meters, due to land ice melt in west Antarctica and Greenland?”

I said, “Well, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen, but we do have some protections, because we’re working on New Orleans. What we haven’t given enough thought to is what happens to everybody else.”

What happens to all the coastal cities. What happens to the East Coast of the US with the slightly tilt of the planet on its axis as we melt those ice caps. There’s no protection for them. And we’re not talking about hurricanes any more, we’re talking about potentially tsunami-type of events like we’ve seen in Asia, like we’ve seen most recently in American Samoa. A completely different set of events than what we’re used to.

Some people say we can’t do this because of the cost.

As business, we all look at in terms of it’s an investment. In this case it’s an investment that by all facts, figures and analysis pays back many times over. It pays back with reduced adaptation costs in the future, reduced repair and damage from these type of events, and growth in the economy through transferring technology around the world and creating jobs at home.

Some people say we can’t do this because there are some things that are uncertain.

But that is in large part precisely the reason that we need to act, because of the uncertainty, not necessarily because of the things that we do know. We do know a lot, as you all know.

We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man’s activities.

We’re virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad. There’s no good things that’s going to come of this. But what’s uncertain is exactly which one of those things are going to occur and in what time frame. In the probability distribution curve is about a 50% probability that about half of all species will become extinct or be subject to extinction over this period of time. What we will never know on an ex ante basis is whether or not man be one of those casualties or not.

We condemn Wall Street for taking risks with our economy “” risks that all of you are trying very hard to reverse “” but at the same time we’re taking exactly the same kind of risks, with no upside whatsoever, with regard to our climate, failing to practice even the basic risk management techniques in terms of climate change reduction.

We talk a lot about in this issue about “us” and “we.” Just so all you know this is not about us. It’s about our children. It’s about our children’s children. When our children are born, we know at that moment in time, that there isn’t anything in the world that we wouldn’t do for them. And as they grow, we know for certain that we would give up our lives for our children. For some reason we won’t do this. We’re cheating them out of their future, and we’re doing it with our eyes wide open. And that’s exactly how history will judge us if we don’t pass comprehensive climate and energy reform now.

Thank you.

APPLAUSE

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8 Responses to Entergy CEO: “We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of mans activities. Were virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad.”

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo! A business leader with an actual appreciation for the gravity of the problem, with a moral compass, and with guts. We need many more of them. History will judge — and is already in the process of judging — those whose companies are contributing most to the problem and who are delaying action, misleading the public, and so forth.

    I still want to know whether The New York Times is going to shine responsible and penetrating light on ExxonMobil? I left a message with Andy Revkin yesterday. Today or tomorrow, I’ll call Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor.

  2. paulm says:

    Risk, Risk, Risk Management.
    That’s what its about. Its taking awhile to sink in….

    Bill Gates do you know anything about Risk Management?

  3. jcwinnie says:

    Still, the bottom line is that they are going up against the military-industrial complex that takes the lion’s share of discretionary federal spending. The change that Leonard calls for, the change which will mitigate the worse consequences of human-caused GHG emissions, will cost money.

    As he implies in the speech, that money needs to come from somewhere. So, watch for the rallying cry of Death and Destruction Above All Else. That is my snarky way of putting it, it isn’t what actually will be said. Essentially, it will be what will be said.

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Nice to see another Energy CEO standing up and saying what’s going on. Get the legislation through and get the our carbon boat turned in the right direction.

    The initial legislation won’t be enough, but it will get things pointed in the right way.

    Bravo Mr. Leonard.

  5. Ben says:

    It almost seems like he thinks it is already too late. What are we supposed to do? btw, your terms of use link shows up blank in ie8.

    [JR: He says he doesn't know or rather he doesn't want to wait anymore. TOU fine for me in IE, Firefox.]

  6. I’m all for going along with James Lovelock and using nuclear energy to slow down CO2 emissions. However, does the CEO of Entergy, a nuclear power company that’s itching to sell technology around the globe, have much clout with the rest of business? Don’t they see him as having a major vested interest in ramping up policy responses to climate change? And he’s using Katrina as an example of what can happen, which the American government demonstrated they didn’t much care about. I’m just not seeing this speech as a big turning point.

  7. Patsy Malee says:

    I am in the Technical Disaster Recovery Business. I totally agree with paulm. I’ve written an article called “Why Only Three Feet”? which pertains to why they are rebuilding homes and business in the lower parishes just three feet off the ground, when the water came in up over the rooftops. The damaged levee’s are not repaired as yet, but still it goes on.
    We really cannot continue to manage our Risk and Assets in the same manor as we have in the past. We need to have positive plans in place to protect our exhisting assets, with aggressive recovery stradegies in case of a catastrophic event, while relocating our Assets to projected “safer locations”, thus managing and minimizing our Risk Exposer as much as possible.
    That with responsible global policy to climate change by world leaders should be a good start.