We are standing on the cusp of making unprecedented progress to reduce carbon pollution, especially from old dirty power plants. In addition to these important new public safeguards proposals, something else is changing -- climate change rhetoric.
In just the last few months, the climate deniers have started to shift their public relations strategy. Instead of trying to shoot holes in the arguments of 97 percent of the scientific community, they've chosen to just retreat from the debate by proclaiming their lack of credentials to participate. Elected leaders, like Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), and 2016 Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) are hedging their bets by stating their lack of scientific degree. This may seem like a cop out to the average observer, but I'm willing to bet they are seeing the same polling numbers I am.
For instance, research out this week from the Yale project on Climate Change Communication titled "The Politics of Global Warming" finds that registered voters are nearly three times as likely to vote for politicians at the federal level who believe that climate change is real and support action to address it. Even registered Republican voters are coming around with 66 percent of liberal/moderate conservatives supporting "strict carbon emission limits on existing coal fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health."
But one candidate didn't get the memo, as evidenced by the recent almost five minute video calling climate change "perhaps the greatest deception in the history of mankind." Honestly, I thought the commercial, put out by Louisiana State Rep. Lenar Whitney, was a spoof as it was shot mostly in black and white, complete with dramatic music and cute little knocks on the media. Unfortunately, Whitney is very serious with her misstatements, and fundamental misunderstanding of how climate change is putting her constituents in Louisiana at risk.
Since the 1930s, the state of Louisiana has lost 1880 square miles of coastline, which could almost double by the end of the century. At the same time the ocean is rising, the drinking and agricultural water is set for a decline. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about "81 percent of the state's parishes now face higher risk of water shortages by mid-century as a result of climate change." Whitney's ignorance is putting people at real risk.
She makes the case that people are picking on the poor fossil fuel industry (with their $271 billion in profits) and accurately notes that fossil fuels helped make the U.S. a world leader in the 20th century. Unfortunately, Whitney forgets the world has progressed (case in point, you're likely reading this on your mobile device). What made us a leader a century ago is not what will help us cement our place in the world now and into the future.
According to a Forbes magazine article by Chris Nelder, "Oil, natural gas and coal are set to peak and go into decline within the next decade, and no technology can change that." Prices are going to go up. Whoever makes energy affordable is going to be the winner.
That makes EPA's new Clean Power Plan, which will dramatically cut carbon emissions from power plants, so critical to our future. This effort will protect our communities, our air, our water and our health, while spurring the clean energy technology and jobs we need to keep our lights on and our economy going. Supporting this plan means supporting America's future.
Meanwhile, Whitney needs to get with the times. Louisiana can lead or it can be left behind. At least Rubio and Boehner are smart enough to read the politics and know that they are about to get caught on the wrong side of history. Whitney has gone all in for the "poor fossil fuel" industry with her dramatically uninformed video and if she is elected, she could lock Louisiana into a dark future of being beholden to dirty energy. The choice is simple, lead now or forever fall behind.