The State of Louisiana held its first Climate Initiatives Task Force meeting yesterday, and Governor Edwards kicked off the meeting with an empowering speech. “I appreciate your service on this task force and/or agreeing to join us on this journey of what I think is critically important work for our state.” He pointed out that months ago, Louisiana created the task force and noted that Louisiana’s intention was to be at the forefront of addressing climate change.
Big news! @LouisianaGov’s newly-formed Climate Initiatives Task Force met for the first time today. CPRA Chair Chip Kline and E.D. Bren Haase, both members, will work to develop solutions to increase our resilience and create a more sustainable coast for future generations. pic.twitter.com/MJY9jjV39j
— LouisianaCPRA (@LouisianaCPRA) November 9, 2020
“I suspect that had we not already planned on doing this, we would’ve after this year anyway, with Cristobal, Marco, Laura, Sally, Beta, Delta, Zeta, and Eta,” the last of which, he pointed out, hasn’t come our way yet. For those confused about the mix of names and Greek alphabet names, Governor Edwards was referring to the hurricanes and large storms that have affected our state this year.
Laura devastated Lake Charles and Southwest Lousiana — an area that Tesla CEO Elon Musk, among several others, donated funds to in order to help provide relief. For me, the most intense storm was Delta, as those winds were haunting and belong in a horror film.
Governor Edwards stressed that the events of this year would have forced Louisiana to confront the issue of climate change if our state wasn’t already doing so. “Southwest Louisiana,” he said, was “hammered by not one, but two hurricanes. They made landfall about 12 miles apart and about five or six weeks apart in time.” He noted that Laura was the strongest storm to hit Louisiana since 1856.
Strongest Storm Since 1856
“Quite frankly, I don’t know how we compare a storm in 2020 with one in 1856 because I don’t know how they measured anything back then. But it was the 5th strongest storm to make landfall anywhere in the United States.” He paused, then spoke about challenges.
“Now, one of the challenges that I have as governor is — and we all have — the country’s attention this year wasn’t focused on the hurricane and it’s not focused today on our recovery needs because of the election. And we have to make sure that we do what we can to get the attention of the folks in Washington — and I know our congressional delegation is going to help us with that. But a couple of other things that you need to know about Hurricane Laura: It established the record for the fastest intensification of any storm ever measured in the Gulf of Mexico — until Hurricane Delta. And then Hurricane Delta actually intensified faster than Hurricane Laura just a few weeks later. And this isn’t just about hurricanes,” said Governor Edwards.
Rainfall Events 40–100% More Likely To Occur
He pointed out that we have just had our 5 warmest years on record, and hotter air carries more moisture which leads to some of the most intense rainfall events, as well as additional health risks from hot days that are coupled with extremely high humidity.
“Shortly after the 2016 floods, NOAA concluded that climate change had made rainfall events like that 40–100% more likely to occur. So I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re seeing more intense weather events and we’re seeing them more frequently. And the fact that changes are happening in our environment, I think, are undeniable.”
Governor Edwards pointed out that we have a chance to position ourselves as leaders in this fight against climate change. “Everyone here needs and wants to go to work and live their lives, raise their kids without managing a natural disaster every other week of the year. It’s about avoiding the worst outcomes, but it’s also preparing ourselves to succeed in a new world, and in a new economy driven by these imperatives to be more resilient to disasters and make sure those disasters are less damaging to the environment, and then take advantage of all of the opportunities that we have — and they are many — to position ourselves to take advantage of this in terms of growing the economy and becoming leaders in this country and around the world on the front end of this.”
Climate Is The New Focus
Governor Edwards then noted that Louisiana needs policies that would create a business climate for companies ready to tackle climate change. “We have oil companies that are rebranding as energy companies,” he said, while pointing out how the dialogue has changed to emphasize the need to focus on the environment. He pointed out that he’s seen the new focus in TV advertisements even. Regarding the oil companies, “This doesn’t mean they’re going to abandon oil or gas — that would not be good for us either — but it does mean that there’s a different focus, and we know that a substantial part of their portfolio going forward is going to be on new initiatives. It doesn’t make sense to not take advantage of that, especially around critical things like carbon capture sequestration, where we have the opportunity to literally lead the country and that investment is starting right now. And those permits are being applied for right now including here in Louisiana.” [Editor’s note: there’s a long history of carbon capture sequestration not living up to its hype and being dramatically more expensive then simpler alternatives — like cutting off fossil fuels quickly and switching to clean energy.]
He pointed out that we’re not going to start with a slew of regulations, but instead, we are starting by convening this group — the Climate Initiative Task Force — “to develop the path forward together from the bottom up with a diverse group of individuals all with expertise in different areas. I think that’s the right way to do it. We’re here to make sure we’re not only doing our part in addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emissions but that the solutions make sense for our state. By crafting our own solutions, we can address our vulnerabilities while ensuring that the economy is able to handle the changes we propose — not just handle the changes but benefit from the changes that we propose.”
Governor Edwards finished his speech by pointing out the value of each member of the task force and thanking them for serving. “We’re all here at the table with an equal voice from the beginning of this to steer this state in a new direction. And if anyone can identify innovative and sustainable solutions for our future, it is Louisiana — it’s all of you. And our kids are counting on us.”
He added, “This is important. I’m gonna ask you to see this as an opportunity not just to address climate change, but to position this state to be leaders. It will secure investment, and job creation, and economic growth all while we continue to work with our carbon-based fuel industry because that’s not going anywhere. I suspect that we have decades left and we can take advantage of our position there as well. In fact, I think that the two go hand in hand, and that because we have so much natural gas, in particular here in Louisiana with LNG facilities and so forth, that we’re going to be in a really, really good position overall. But positioning ourselves for future success means that we’ve got to look at new opportunities as well.”
I wanted to quickly share my thoughts on my governor’s take on the value of the carbon-based fuel industry. He thinks we have a few decades left of that and wants to get as many benefits from it as he can. Personally, having written several stories about the advance of renewables, I want to disagree. Worth noting in this regard — we have access to the Gulf of Mexico for wind.
If we look at the UK as a prime example, 10 years ago, 80% of all of the electricity produced in the UK came from fossil fuels. In 2019’s third quarter, the number of renewables in the energy mix rose to 40% while fossil fuels were at 39%. Today, only 1% of all electricity in the UK comes from burning coal, and the next generation of offshore wind farms is expected to cost only around £40 for every megawatt-hour of electricity generated. This is less than the average market price for electricity on the wholesale energy markets of today.
Back in May, I analyzed an article by Bob Marshall, a Pulitzer Prize–winning Louisiana environmental journalist who shared his thoughts about how Louisiana can transition from oil to energy independence. I really think the task force should consider wind as a source of energy and look into ways of converting wind into electricity.
I do admire our governor’s initiative and his passion to not only fight climate change but establish Louisiana as a leader, but I fully believe that if we truly want to lead, our state has to let go of its love for the companies that produce fossil fuels. It’s a hard habit to break, but I do think we can do it.
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