Politics

Louisiana Governor Hedges On Climate Change As His State Disappears Into the Sea

CREDIT: Alice Ollstein

WASHINGTON, DC—Louisiana Governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate Bobby Jindal (R) unveiled a new energy plan Tuesday that called for increasing on- and off-shore oil drilling and gas fracking, rolling back environmental protections, and completely withdrawing from the United Nations climate negotiation process.

Jindal has long been vague about his views on climate change, and the new report does little to clarify.

“Nobody disputes that the climate is always changing,” he writes. “The question is what is the role of humans in that change—and what, if any, dangers that change presents for Americans.”

He then quotes climate science denier and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer’s claim that scientists who “pretend to know” the impact of climate change are “white-coated propagandists.”

Jindal ducked questions Tuesday about his position on climate change, saying he wants to “leave it to scientists” to determine how dire the threat of climate change is and what needs to be done about it. “We now face an administration that is composed and comprised of science deniers, when you look at their approach to science and the environment,” he warned.

While noting that “there are currently many known and unknown unknowns” around climate science, Jindal said nothing about the damage already done in his home state, where residents are dealing with stronger hurricanes and other natural disasters, a drastic rise in sea levels and exacerbated air pollution.

The National Climate Assessment calculates that the state has already lost 1,880 square miles of land in the last 80 years, and is on track to continue losing a football field of land every hour if carbon emissions continue at their current pace. As the team at Propublica noted in a recent investigation: “A wetlands ecosystem that took nature 7,000 years to build will be destroyed in a human lifetime.”

Researchers also warned that extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina, which displaced at least 800,000 Louisiana residents, “are projected to increase in frequency and/or intensity as climate continues to change.” As a result, the state is expected to lose billions of dollars in economic assets and disaster costs.

Jindal has several ideas for how to tackle these challenges. For example, “appropriate management and thinning of forests that have grown unnaturally thick” will help reduce emissions. He also suggests “modernizing our air traffic control systems to allow pilots to fly more direct routes.” And finally, he urges the government to “work with American job creators to develop a smart plan to preserve the environment.”

But these measures won’t go far enough to save Louisiana, which has already kicked into an adaptation strategy that attempts to restore the state’s coastal wetlands. Scientists from around the world on the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said this year that global society must work to stabilize carbon in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million.