WWNO's Listening Post project asks questions about local news in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and reports back on the community's response. This week the Listening Post explores the politics of climate change in Louisiana.
Hurricane season is here. It's always been a tense time of year on the Gulf Coast, but in the past few decades climate scientists have been warning that warmer oceans will produce more and stronger storms. In other words, between sea level rise, coastal erosion, and the possibility of more hurricanes, climate change feels very real in southern Louisiana.
And yet, some local politicians refuse to engage with the problem of climate change, and some even refuse to acknowledge that it exists.
Louisiana senators David Vitter and Bill Cassidy recently signed a letter asking that FEMA eliminate the requirement that states address climate change in disaster planning to receive federal funding. Read the full letter here.
And then there’s Lenar Whitney, a state representative and Houma resident who is running for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Last year Whitney released a video aggressively repudiating the existence of climate change.
"It was free market capitalism that created the wealthiest society the earth had ever seen. But now, both capitalism and our energy industry are under attack. And the hoax of global warming is the dagger," Whitney says in the video.
Torbjörn Törnqvist is a professor in the department of Earth and Environmental Science at Tulane University. He says there is strong scientific consensus on the existence and affects of climate change.
"Here along the gulf coast the rate of sea level rise over the last century has been higher than basically anything we've seen in the last seven thousand years," he says.
Törnqvist first explored climate change as a grad student back in his native Netherlands 25 years ago.
"It is troubling to be in a place like here where these issues are perhaps even more relevant and we're 25 years later and look where we are. We have a long, long way to go," he says.
While some politicians claim that climate change is being used as an excuse to over-regulate industry, Törnqvist says companies are starting to prepare for climate change. And some other pretty big entities too.
"There are many major corporations that consider climate change and how that will affect their business. The military, the U.S. military takes this very very seriously. Well, really? Would they do that if it was all a hoax? And it was not a real issue? Of course not."
We asked you about how politicians talk about climate change in Louisiana. Do they represent your views? Who do you think is responsible for keeping you safe during severe weather events?
- How do you feel about how Louisiana politicians view climate change?
“I agree with the Senators.”
“I disagree. Climate change has a huge affect on our coast. Because LA relies heavily on its coastal production and resources and means of economic stability.”
“Idiots. In 2015, denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and human-caused is, on the part of our legislators, a cowardly and transparent act of obedience to their oil industry masters”
“Obviously, climate change is a real and serious issue. It's disheartening to see legislators ignore such a major threat to such a serious problem.”
“With climate change causing rising waters, our representatives should not be favoring local industry for the immediate return but should have their eyes on a longterm solution. Facing climate change will be costly now but unaffordable later.”
"It's completely irresponsible. What has to happen for us as a nation, people, world to get it? The time to act is passing us by, while politicians waste time asking for waivers on climate change requirements"
“Louisiana politicians need to stop selling themselves to the oil & gas industries. Sure, those companies do provide jobs, but at what cost? Ignoring climate change is not only short-term thinking, it’s long-term consequenes could be disastrous to the entire Gulf Coast region!”
“Louisiana politician,should know better than anyone that climate change is real. Look at our dead zones, eroding coast line and rising sea levels. They can’t just stick their head in the ground and pretend it isn’t happening because soon that land will be covered with water!”
“Louisiana politician do not think recycling is important. They make bad decision about Louisiana. They are as corrupt as ever”
“Absolutely unacceptable. Unbelievable.”
“Refusing to admit Climate Change is Real is going to have REAL BAD CONSEQUENCES.”
“They’re denial is complete BS. What the hell do they think is going on? They can’t even fathom the world beyond the 50 mile radius of their house. Idiots.”
“Like everything else, they choose to ignore science and act as if they want our state to remain permanently stuck in 1950. Ignorant and sad.”
“I’m not impressed. There’s a lot of talk about listening to science followed by a lot of prevarication about what the “science” actually says.”
“They are in denial!! It needs to be addressed as the real concern and threat it is.”
“It’s nonsense. All evidence points to climate change as a real phenomenon - how can the politicians continue to deny its existence?”
“Louisiana politicians at all levels are losing on their “idiot test.” Appalling ignorance.”
“There is a river and it’s called denial.”
“I think they are clowns.”
“It doesn’t bother me. They are using FEMA to build a golf course in City Park when kids go to school in near condemned buildings and trailers. I don’t think they have a CLUE what they are doing with FEMA or the climate or anything else. Not including certain language in a bill is par for the course for these backward Louisiana politicians who are nothing but dollar signs. They will do anything the corporations want.”
“they are completely out of touch”
“I feel la politicians rejecting climate change refuse to accept reality and have no understanding of how science works. I feel they are politicizing an issue that shouldn’t be and that they are endangering our future along the gulf coast. Shame on them!”
“Our politicians are idiots who are owned by big business.”
“[insert rant about LA politicians being slaves to our corporate overlords etc etc blah blah blah we get it already]”
“They think science is something to “believe” in. If they don’t agree, they write it off. It also doesn’t hurt that their opinion is helped out with generous financial incentives from the energy lobbies.”
“This is horse shit, they need to understand the need to focus on climate change”
“They’re idiots! God help us.”
“Senator vitter and Cassidy’s stance on climate change is egregious…. From the perspective of Louisiana reliance on hazard mitigation funds, of coarse concern should be given. However this stance is not about requirement of infrastructure improvements or specific mitigation requirements in order to receive federal funds (post disaster); this is about ideological nonsense and allowing oneself to become so pretentious that reality begins to fade. Neither ve IPPCC AR5 report. Ultimately the senators from the one state which will receive the greatest impacts from sea level rise, can only be concerned with keitter nor Cassidy are climatologists, biologists, are even engineers. I would be willing to wager that neither have ever read even a token portion of theping the status quo and not pursuing plans to preemptively stave off the disasters associated with the GUARANTEES of sea level rise.”
“They need to get with the times and face the world around them.”
“I feel like they are idiots”
“Louisiana politicians need to wake up. Short memories and narrow minds should not be in charge of public policy”
“Their views on climate change are as antiquated as all their other views.”
“Louisiana politicians are quick to remind us that they are not scientists, and that’s exactly the problem– they need to heed the advice of scientists”
- Who do you think is responsible for your safety if those things happen? Government?(local, state, federal), you?
“Both citizens and the government is responsible in emergency situations in different capacities.”
“All of the above”
“State and federal govr”
“Hurricanes and sea level rise are too great for individuals to protect against so we need the government -federal and local - to aid us in the face of those perils.”
"Yes, yes, yes, yes. Everyone should have a personal plan. And overall local, state and federal government should be aligned and working together. Personal plans may fail and the fact is not everyone has the material/ economic resources for a plan"
“Local, State & Federal govts are all responsible for protecting & serving their citizens.”
“The only person I will rely on for my own safety is me. Katrina proved they were nit ready and I haven’t seen anything to show that fact has changed. Calling in the national guard after the fact is not preparedness or safety planning. I rely on my car and myself to get me and my animals out of harms way”
“I don’t we can depend on any one but ourselves by the grace of God. The governments are made up of people we don’t do what is best for louisiana.”
“Local AND federal government.”
“I would like to believe that we can count on state and local government to protect us, but history tells me we have to look out for ourselves. Federal govt may come in after the fact with some sort of support.”
“Me and mine, not any Government Agency”
“Everyone. People need to be aware of where they live and plan accordingly. Expect the worst and hope for the best, whether climate change is real or not. God might be changing the climate.”
“All three, state, local, federal”
“It’s a shared responsibility. Local, state & federal agencies are obligated to provide resources & a framework for accessing them to their citizens so they can deal with environmental hazards. How well they do that is always up for debate.”
“All areas should work together”
“I’m ultimately responsible for myself and my family. I think we learned a lot from Katrina and we won’t see the lagging response ever again.”
“A combination but primarily the state, since regional decisions are made at the state level.”
“Govt both local and federal. And citizens to petition both govnts to act with the best interest of its people. I think our engineers and scientists are capable of governing projects but until govt stops denying the climate change, they can only take us so far.”
“Every individual and every level of government.”
“I am. But I should be informed for what I am in for. Insurance companies should not insure areas that are so unsafe. The lay person is ignorant,of these things. We just want a nice place to live.”
“State and federal as well as me”
“Government and the individual”
“Everyone is responsible for their own safety to a certain degree. But I also believe that if there are issues that could have been fixed or things that were broken by any gov’t intity, they are responsible.”
“In the case of South Louisiana, it should be all levels of government and the oil and gas industry. This would be a lot easier without massive tax breaks to the largest companies in the world.”
“Me. Hope the feds are there because the state is too screwed up to get their act together. Remember Katrina?”
“The state government utilizing data provided by federal and international agencies.”
“We all are, but recognizing the problem is the first step and the state is truly lacking.”
“Ultimately I am responsible for my family’s safety. But i expect both state & federal to act responsibly in preventative measures.”
“Someone must be responsible. Thanks Obama”
“Government and me combined”
“Ultimately you, but govt should be providing as much logistical, health, safety, and communicative support as possible to protect its citizens, especially those who cannot help themselves”
“Ultimately, the State has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens.”
“All of us, but our government is in charge of our infrastructure and spending, so they must take the lead.”
Here is the report on climate change in the southeast United States from the National Climate Assessment released in 2014.
If you want to join our bimonthly conversations, text the word “hello” to 504-303-4348. Or hit us up on Twitter: @LP_NOLA.
See you at the Listening Post!