Oct. 12, 2016 02:49 PM

Senate candidate Caroline Fayard took some heat from fellow Democrats in September — the hottest September ever recorded — when she replied, “I’m not a scientist” in response to a question at a forum about whether the candidates believe climate change is caused by human activity, namely burning fossil fuels. “I’m not a scientist” is the go-to answer from politicians who don’t want to upset the ostriches, although not an entirely uncommon response from energy-state Democrats. This is, after all, Louisiana, where the political catechism is lubricated with petroleum. (Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, also a Dem, was the only candidate at that forum to state flatly that climate change is caused by human activity and needs to be urgently addressed, which is probably why Foster Campbell won’t be Louisiana’s next U.S. senator; we’ll settle for an ostrich.)

Fayard tried to make right with the left on Wednesday, releasing “her plan to fight climate change and coastal erosion throughout Louisiana, and to help facilitate consensus amongst communities and businesses toward coastal restoration efforts.” It’s a plan heavy on fighting coastal erosion — through more federal money, Mississippi River silt diversion and buttressing the National Flood Insurance Program — and light on what the vast majority of climate scientists (and the elected officials who actually trust science and don’t live in Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma or Texas) believe needs to be done to address climate change: a substantial decrease in the carbon dioxide humans are pumping into the atmosphere from transportation, electricity production and manufacturing by rapidly moving to renewable energy sources.

To her credit, Fayard does use the term “anthropogenic climate change,” which by definition means “caused by humans,” and she speaks in terms pleasing to the cochleas of environmentalists: “Anthropogenic climate change is perhaps the number one challenge facing the future of Louisiana. My opponents either deny the existence of man-made climate change, or would like you to believe that there is one solution to cure it all. But as the number one state in the nation most economically and ecologically vulnerable to climate change, sea level rise and coastal erosion, Louisianans know this is a complex issue that will take a national effort.”

Fayard’s plan, which is three parts coastal erosion and one part climate change, makes passing mention to renewable energy sources wind and solar, but it’s still a fossil fuel-centric plan, focusing on natural gas, an abundant, cheap energy source that Louisianans are crackerjack at getting out of the ground. It’s true, natural gas is twice as environmentally friendly as coal, but it’s still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide. As The New York Times notes in a 2013 article: “One reason natural gas is called ‘clean’ is because it emits 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when you burn it. Thus it’s seen by some as a ‘bridge’ fuel until zero-carbon-producing renewables can take over. But natural gas isn’t clean in the way that solar is clean. It’s clean-er than coal.”

Fayard’s climate change “plan” doesn’t address what’s on the other side of the bridge.

To be fair, Fayard is trying to thread a mighty small needle here: She can’t call for a cut-back in fossil fuel production in favor of renewables — not in Louisiana where, as we’ve witnessed over the last 18 months with the precipitous decline in oil prices, the economy is (overly) dependent on mineral extraction. But she can’t alienate what is probably a majority bloc within the Democratic Party that believes climate change is real, that human activity is causing it (or at least hastening it) and that something must be done — now — to halt its advance.

Read Fayard's plan here.


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