STATEMENT OF LOUISIANA SIERRA CLUB ON CLIMATE E-MAIL CONTROVERSY
December 7, 2009
STATEMENT OF LOUISIANA SIERRA CLUB ON CLIMATE E-MAIL CONTROVERSY
The Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club released the following statement:
The issue of human-induced climate change, generally termed global warming, is a major priority for the national Sierra Club and its Louisiana Chapters and groups.1 The current controversy about illegally hacked e-mails that were private communications between a number of climate scientists is being used to attempt to influence national and international policy on the issue, and therefore deserves serious attention.2
The timing of the release of the e-mails on the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen seems more than coincidental, and a number of pundits and politicians are repeating very serious accusations and assertions about them. The endless repetition of accusations and assertions should not pass for sober public discussion of this issue, however.
The main accusations about the e-mails, that they show falsification, manipulation, or suppression of data by the scientists and institutions involved, have not been proven. A central assertion, that the e-mails and their content have somehow discredited or overturned the science of global warming, is clearly untrue. The science of global warming is based on multiple sets of long-term data and multiple lines of evidence produced by many agencies and institutions, such as NASA and NOAA.3
Out of the reported 1000 e-mails that were released, only a few have been selected or cherry-picked for controversy. Anyone interested in actually understanding what they mean, rather than merely accepting assertions about them, can look to rational discussions by scientists on blog sites like RealClimate and Skeptical Science, as well as statements by the scientists themselves. Pulling phrases and sentences out of context without asking what they actually mean does not convey an understanding of complex scientific questions.
Another basic consideration from anyone interested in accuracy is whether what was expressed in informal e-mails actually translated into actions that shaped policy. An oft-cited e-mail by the director of the CRU stated that he would keep two papers judged of poor quality out of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report – but regardless of what was said in the e-mail, both papers in fact went on to further peer-review and were cited and discussed in the IPCC Report.4
Another of the misperceptions repeated by some pundits and politicians
is that the e-mails show the blocking of access to climate data. The
University of East Anglia, home to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU),
is one of several institutions that has compiled a climate data archive.
The data is not CRU’s, but comes from research stations and others
sources around the world. The CRU has been accused of not releasing
data. The University, however, states that “it is well known within
the scientific community and particularly those who are skeptical of
climate change that over 95% of the raw station data has been accessible…
for several years.”5
The CRU notes that observational temperature records are only one of multiple strands of evidence showing warming of the global climate system. Others include long-term retreat of glaciers, reductions in snow cover area in the Northern Hemisphere in spring, reduction in Arctic sea-ice extent in all seasons, increases in the heat content of the ocean, and increases in global average sea level.
As a state directly threatened – and currently impacted – by sea-level rise, Louisiana should have a strong interest in climate change and an effective national response.6 Since Louisiana requires national assistance to address problems caused by sea-level rise and other factors, the state should be on the side of responsible public policy. Unfortunately, several members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation are among the strongest opponents of action on climate change, and have been among those making unsubstantiated charges based on the leaked CRU e-mails.7
Investigations into the e-mail controversy being undertaken by the University of East Anglia, the IPCC, and the United Nations, will establish if any substance lies in the accusations about the hacked e-mails. In the meantime, the IPCC has reiterated the soundness of climate science and its conclusions about human-induced global warming.8
Submitted by Haywood Martin, Chair
1 Sierra Club, “Climate Crossroads,” http://climatecrossroads.sierraclub.org/about-climate-change/index.html; Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, “Louisiana and Global Warming,” http://louisiana.sierraclub.org/climatechange.asp
3 NOAA National Climatic Data Center (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html),
4 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, “Climate Change 2007:
The Physical Science Basis,”
5 University of East Anglia, CRU Update 1 December, http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/CRUupdate
6 Among the many publications and studies dealing with the
effects of sea-level rise (global and relative) on Louisiana’s
7 Times Picayune, 12/1/09, http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2009/12/climate-change_researcher_resi.html; Wonkroom blog, 11/23/09, http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/11/23/vitter-climategate-fraud/
8 IPCC, Director’s Statement, http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/presentations/rkp-statement-4dec09.pdf;
A letter to Senator Mary Landrieu from the Delta Chapter Chair
August 7, 2009
Senator Mary Landrieu
The historic passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act in the House of Representatives creates a sound framework for a clean energy future. While imperfect, it sets forth goals that America must achieve -- and exceed. Its most important achievement is setting the United States on a path to reduce carbon emissions some 80 percent by 2050. It also makes strides in halting international deforestation, requires new buildings to dramatically slash energy waste, will speed the development of made-in-America electric vehicles, and provides important protections for workers, consumers, and others who may be affected by our transition to a clean energy future.
The Clean Energy and Security Act is also an important long term investment in protection of Louisiana's coast from more violent storms and rising sea levels. The consequences of global climate change fall very heavily on low lying coastal areas such as south Louisiana. We have the most to lose in terms of destruction of our coastal communities, destruction of our energy and transportation infrastructure, and coastal land loss.
Although it makes a strong start, the Clean Energy and Security Act must be strengthened before it reaches the President's desk. I hope that you will work to strengthen this plan as it moves forward. There are a few main areas for improvement I urge you to push for. In particular, a mechanism for cleaning up the oldest and dirtiest coal plants must be included in a final bill. It's also vital that we ramp up the bill's investments in energy efficiency, hasten our transition toward clean energy sources like wind and solar, and steer more of the bill's investments toward the public benefit, not polluters.
Comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation can create millions of new, good-paying clean energy jobs, make us more energy independent, help solve our climate crisis and help protect the Louisiana gulf coast. Please ensure that this legislation is strong enough to achieve these goals.
Louisiana and Global Warming
The release of Vice President Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" provides a valuable opportunity for the state of Louisiana to focus on the issue of human-induced global warming.
Despite the contentions of some interest groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and its funder Exxon-Mobil, a broad scientific consensus does exist that human actions are altering the earth's climate. Diverting time and attention away from that prime consideration merely misleads the public and puts the public interest at greater risk.
Louisiana has several direct and pressing reasons to be concerned about the problem of global warming.
Fortunately, the state has a number of scientific and policy resources already at hand to help address this critical issue.
National Assessment of the impacts of global warming in
the U.S. carried out in the late 1990s examined potential impacts in
each region of the country, including Louisiana and the southeast.
Confronting Climate Change in the Gulf Coast Region, an in-depth
report prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ecological
Society of America in 2001, had several prominent Louisiana scientists
as authors and looked at impacts across economic sectors and environmental
Hurricanes have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the last three decades due in part to global warming, says an MIT professor who warns that this trend could continue.
"My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in [hurricanes'] destructive potential, and--taking into account an increasing coastal population--a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the 21st century," reports Kerry Emanuel (see his home page here) in a paper appearing in the July 31 online edition of the journal Nature.
the release here:
Like many states, Louisiana completed a
greenhouse gas inventory in collaboration with EPA in 1999.
Danger & Opportunity: Implications of Climate Change in Louisiana (1999), a report prepared by a legislative study commission, looked at climate impacts and policy options across major economic sectors in the state. The report proposed a plan that was never implemented, and is now out of print.
The Louisiana legislature passed a resolution calling for a state commission
on climate change policy in two consecutive regular sessions (2002 &
2003), but the resolution was never implemented. (See SCR 15 under Regular
Session 2003 at:
Some positive steps are being taken. Baton Rouge has participated in
the Department of Energy's Clean Cities program for several
years, and the state has adopted a
model energy code for historic buildings in hot and humid climates
The state's coastal restoration program when funded has the potential to respond to sea-level rise by restoring a significant portion of the wetlands complex of south Louisiana, as well as burying carbon through burial of river sediments in marshes whose plants will also absorb C02 from the atmosphere.
Unlike a number of less vulnerable states, however, Louisiana still lacks a climate action plan.
New Challenges and Opportunities:
The hurricanes of 2005 imposed unprecedented damage on Louisiana's citizens and communities, and left both in a condition of heightened risk as the next storm season approaches. There are also important opportunities, however, to rebuild and restore in a sustainable way as the state recovers from the storms.
Two key opportunities:
We urge the state to fully utilize federal programs such as the Department of Energy's Building America and Zero Energy Homes
A Changing Energy Picture:
Many of the actions that will help the state deal with global warming will also enable us to respond to another emerging trend - rising energy prices. A growing number of experts agree that world production of oil and gas will approach its "peak" sometime in the next decade or two, with potentially disruptive effects on economies largely dependent on fossil fuels. (The website for the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, http://www.peakoil.net, contains papers and discussions on this issue.)
In addition to maximizing its investments in energy efficiency, Louisiana needs to diversify its energy sources. While there are opportunities here as well, there are no simple solutions. Considerations of sustainability and environmental and public health must be factored into decisions about the siting of energy facilities and the investment of public money.
So, opportunities for wind power facilities off Louisiana's coast must fully study the impacts on major bird migration routes that
cross our shores, and expansion of biomass fuels such as ethanol and bio-diesel must incorporate responsible practices for soil
conservation and protect our forests from exploitation for short-term energy use. One example of articulating responsible renewable
energy policy has been carried out by the Renewable Energy Policy Project (see "Principles for Biomass Energy in the South,")
There are, however, opportunities ready to hand that will deliver multiple benefits.
Committing to Leadership:
Louisiana cannot afford to allow the public interest to be compromised
by special interests who are distorting the global warming issue. Dealing
with global warming will require expanding the private-public efforts
launched to address coastal land loss and other challenging problems.
While some oil companies such as Exxon have invested in misinforming
the public while making record profits (see http://www.exxposeexxon.com),
others such as British Petroleum have taken responsible positions on
the global warming issue
Additional examples of corporate leadership are the corporate policies
adopted by Bank of America to protect the environment
In response to the Bush administration's refusal to deal honestly with the climate issue, a growing number of states are taking
the lead. Recent examples of this trend are the formation of a Climate Advisory Group by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and
Governor Schwarzenegger's Executive Order Setting Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Targets for California
Hundreds of Organizations Call for Quick, Meaningful Federal Action
New Orleans, LA - Over 400 groups from around the nation, including Louisiana, have come together today to call for a federal limit on global warming pollution that guarantees pollution reductions from today's levels and promotes clean and efficient energy sources. The release of the Citizen's Climate Policy Statement of Principles comes as Congress returns to Washington, home from a summer vacation during which much of the nation suffered a dizzying heat wave and wildfires tore through western forests and towns.
"The most recent scientific studies prove that global warming is here now and is already causing environmental changes that will have significant economic and social impacts," said Micah Walker Parkin of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a New Orleans based nonprofit organization. "The good news is that if we act now, and act decisively, we can stop the worst effects of global warming."
16 local leaders and organizations have signed onto the Statement of Principles, including the New Orleans City Council, Alliance for Affordable Energy, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Global Green New Orleans, New Orleans Mayor's Office of Environmental Affairs, Gulf Restoration Network, Holy Cross Neighborhood Assn., Laid Back Tours, League of Women Voters of St. Tammany, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Project REACH of the United Methodist Church, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Save Our Wetlands Inc., and Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research. State and local groups illustrated the broad base of support for power plant clean up with endorsements from people of faith, small businesses, coastal restoration groups, elected officials, educators and many others. Over 400 national organizations, such as the Sierra Club and National Wildlife Federation also signed on.
"It is clear that global warming is already changing the world around us and costing Americans in terms of health and money," said Reverend Cory Sparks, with Project REACH of the United Methodist Church. "Hurricanes, heat waves and wildfires - all of which are worsened by the warming of the planet - have forced Americans to realize that global warming is an urgent problem that has serious consequences if unaddressed.
The statement sets out basic principles for global warming policy that stop the worst effects of global warming. These include beginning in the next ten years to reduce global warming pollution, ensuring reductions of 60-80% by 2050 and promotion of clean and efficient energy sources to meet demand reliably and affordably. The growing evidence of harm to public health, our economy and our environment, as well as common sense, demands that a global warming policy be based on the most up-to-date and accurate science says is needed, Alliance members told Louisiana Senators' staff in meetings at our nation's capital last Thursday.
"It is time to use America's technological know-how to reduce pollution and build a stronger economy by leading the world in the creation of new, clean energy," said Parkin. "But without a clear federal policy, we just won't see the aggressive innovation and investment in new technology and clean energy that we need."
To download the complete list of groups that have endorsed the statement of principles, click on the link under Related Documents below. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this file.
Complete list of groups: www.cleartheair.org/principles
Micah Walker Parkin
FOR OUR FAMILIES, FOR OUR FUTURE!