Cross-posted from Wonk Room.
Last week, over a hundred CEOs of American companies broke with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to lobby Congress to “pass comprehensive climate change and energy policy legislation this year.” The U.S. Senate is now considering the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which would set a market-based limit on global warming pollution. Participants in a Clean Energy Economy Forum at the White House included J. Wayne Leonard, the Chairman and CEO of Entergy Corporation, the utility giant based in New Orleans, La. Speaking at the White House event, Leonard called for action on climate change and clean energy not just for economic reasons but starkly moral ones:
We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man’s activities. We’re virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad. There’s no good things that’s going to come of this. But what’s uncertain is exactly which one of those things are going to occur and in what time frame. In the probability distribution curve is about a 50 percent probability that about half of all species will become extinct or be subject to extinction over this period of time. What we will never know on an ex ante basis is whether or not man be one of those casualties or not.
We condemn Wall Street for taking risks with our economy — risks that all of you are trying very hard to reverse — but at the same time we’re taking exactly the same kind of risks, with no upside whatsoever, with regard to our climate, failing to practice even the basic risk management techniques in terms of climate change reduction.
In a powerful speech, Leonard called a national system to cap carbon pollution “an investment that by all facts, figures, and analysis pays back many times over,” and warned that “history will judge us if we don’t pass comprehensive climate and energy reform now” for “cheating [our children] out of their future.”
Entergy serves “two-and-a-half million customers in the mid-South and the Gulf South portion of the country, some of the poorest people in the country,” Leonard noted. These customers already suffered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which global warming likely fueled.
Although Entergy’s website warns that the “ramifications of global climate change, while uncertain, paint a devastating portrait of an unsustainable world” and that what “the United States does now is critical to eliminating or at least reducing the possibility of catastrophic outcomes for future generations,” the corporation is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is spending millions of dollars to fight the regulation of climate pollution. Entergy plans to remain in the climate-denial organization in an attempt to “convince other members to agree to emissions limits.”