A federal government agency warned on Wednesday that the effects of man-made climate change contributed to the recent flooding in metro Baton Rouge, but only one of the eight major candidates for the open U.S. Senate seat expressed concern about the issue to The Advocate.
“I agree with the Pope. He believes we have global warming,” said Foster Campbell, a Democratic member of the Public Service Commission who lives in Bossier Parish. Pope Francis expressed his concern before the United Nations a year ago.
“Nineteen out of the top 20 scientists in the world believe we have global warming,” Campbell said. “It’s because of problems we’ve done as humans. It’s a priority with me.”
Among the other seven candidates, some said they believe that humans are contributing to the warmer global climate but downplayed the issue while the other candidates questioned the research by the federal scientists.
The Advocate asked the top eight candidates about the role of humans in global warming following the release of a study Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The torrential rain that caused widespread flooding in south Louisiana is, at minimum, 40 percent more likely to occur than it was in 1900 and will bring with it 10 percent more rainfall due to the effects of man-made climate change,” The Advocate reported, citing researchers at NOAA, a federal agency.
Besides Florida, scientists say that probably no other state faces a greater risk from global warming than Louisiana.
Led by President Barack Obama, Democrats have taken the lead in pushing for changes aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.
“What makes climate change difficult is that it is not an instantaneous catastrophic event,” Obama told the New York Times last week. “It’s a slow-moving issue that, on a day-to-day basis, people don’t experience and don’t see.”
Obama and scientists say the rising temperatures are responsible for freakish weather, such as recent deadly droughts in Texas and California, heat waves, powerful storms and flooding – such as the recent 1,000-year flood that struck metro Baton Rouge.
In Louisiana’s Republican-controlled Legislature, lawmakers have had little appetite for making changes aimed at reducing the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for warming the earth.
That stands in stark contrast to California, the country’s most populous state. There, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law the nation’s toughest climate law, requiring California to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Brown is a Democrat, and the state Legislature there is controlled by Democrats.
Caroline Fayard, the other major Democratic candidate for Senate in Louisiana, called climate change “a challenge of our time.” But unlike Campbell, Obama and the Democrats in California, Fayard would not agree that humans are responsible for global warming.
“I’m not a scientist,” Fayard said in an interview, echoing an answer given by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal last year when he declined to specify a role to humans. So many Republicans dodged the global warming question with that answer last year that it spawned a spate of news stories noting their identical replies.
Even political independents in this year’s U.S. Senate race give that answer.
“I’m not a scientist to scientifically say yes or no,” said Troy Hebert, a former state legislator from near Lafayette who is running on the No Party label. “I’m sure we play some role in it, but probably the majority of it is Mother Nature changing course.”
Among the major five Republican U.S. Senate candidates, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, a family physician who represents north Louisiana, voiced the greatest skepticism of the NOAA report.
“It’s very unscientific to say we had a big rain so it was caused by global warming,” said Fleming. “As a physician, I believe in evidence-based data. There is no data showing that it was caused by global warming.”
State Treasurer John Kennedy, the campaign’s front-runner according to polls, said he believes that global temperatures are rising but said the evidence does not clearly explain why.
“The problem has to be addressed with market-based solutions rather than government,” Kennedy said, adding, “I support energy conservation, nuclear energy and encouraging technology to burn clean burning coal. I don’t support a cap and trade policy. I don’t support an energy tax. If it’s such a swell idea, let China go first.”
Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel who lives in St. Tammany Parish, conceded that humans are partly responsible for warming temperatures but doesn’t believe it represents a major threat.
“Only after we close the border to illegal immigrants, only after we destroy ISIS [the Middle East-based terrorist group], change the tax code and prosecute Hillary Clinton should we make CO2 emissions a priority,” Maness said. “All of them are a bigger threat to the nation than CO2s.”
Maness also questioned NOAA’s recent study.
“It’s clear that the NOAA has an agenda with regards to their statement,” he said. “It’s an effort to get a higher budget for their agency.”
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany did not agree to an interview on climate change.
"NOAA is being panned by scientists for pushing the narrative that climate change caused the flooding in Louisiana using a study that hasn't been peer-reviewed and has significant flaws,” Boustany, a heart surgeon who represents Acadiana, said in a written statement.
David Duke, a white supremacist who served in the state House from 1989-92, also would not agree to an interview.
“In regards to climate change, I do not consider this phenomenon to be man-made,” Duke said in a written statement. “I would have to examine documented empirical evidence in order to further comment on any event of this nature.”