Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana
NC WARN: Waste Awareness & Reduction Network
News Release Contact: Grant Smith 317-205-3535
March 31, 2008 Jim Warren 919-416-5077
Climate Expert Says Energy Chiefs Have Stolen Big Tobacco’s Playbook
New study says carbon levels are already too high; NASA’s Hansen urges Duke Energy’s Rogers to cancel coal-fired plants and help avoid disaster
Durham, NC – The nation’s leading climate change scientist has called on a top greenhouse polluter to cancel construction of power plants in North Carolina and Indiana, to meet with him this spring, and turn hard toward energy efficiency to help avert climate disaster. New research by NASA’s Dr. James Hansen shows that atmospheric carbon levels are already 10% higher than the level required to maintain the climate to which humanity and wildlife are adapted, and that major reductions are urgently needed.
Today Dr. Hansen released publicly a letter he sent to Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers last Thursday as “a plea for cooperation and leadership.” He noted that Rogers is uniquely positioned to influence the energy industry, and seems to “comprehend the gravity of the problems we face.” But he also urged the CEO to reconsider actions that fly in the face of his public statements of concern about climate change: “…your suggestion that new, more efficient coal-fired power plants, which do not capture CO2, can be part of a solution ignores the basic facts and urgency of terminating coal emissions.”
Hansen told the nationally prominent utility boss that promotions of “cleaner” coal plants are false “solutions” that parallel the path taken by Big Tobacco when it first became clear that smoking caused serious health problems. He wrote, “Unfortunately, although the public will ultimately hold polluters accountable, it will not necessarily be soon enough or have enough impact to prevent environmental and human disasters. It may drag out as in the tobacco case, but with much more serious consequences.”
Sending Rogers the new study, “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” Hansen told him: “The Earth is nearing climate ‘tipping points’ with potential effects, many irreversible, including extermination of countless species, ice sheet disintegration and sea-level rise, and intensified regional climate extremes. A world filled with desperate climate refugees, we are warned by retired US generals and admirals, would be not only tragic, but dangerous for everyone.”
The NASA scientist – widely seen as one of the world’s leading experts on global warming – also mailed his letter and study to the governors of Indiana and North Carolina, and to each of the Charlotte-based power giant’s board members. He warned of increasing financial and legal liability for energy suppliers, citing both the tobacco industry and a new suit by the Inuit village of Kivalina against EXXON/Mobil, Duke Energy, and others “who bear special responsibility for the emissions that drive climate change.”
In the summary to the new study, Hansen and his co-authors wrote: “Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for even another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects. …
“If we stay our present course … we will soon leave the climate of the Holocene, the world of recorded history. … With simultaneous policies to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases, it appears still feasible to avert catastrophic climate change. …
“The most difficult task, phase-out over the next 20-25 years of coal use that does not capture CO2, is
herculean, yet feasible when compared with the efforts that went into World War II … Near-term energy needs can be met with massive but feasible conservation and efficiency programs, cogeneration, solar, wind, and biomass generation. … The stakes, for all life on the planet, surpass those of any previous crisis. The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable.”
Hansen urged Rogers not to “leave a legacy that you will regret,” and to help arrange a day-long meeting this spring at Columbia University with the nation’s top energy experts for “a realistic assessment of potential and timelines, with quantitative assessment of climate implications and identification of practical constraints.”
Citizen coalitions in North Carolina, Indiana and other Duke Energy states recently joined forces, saying they will amplify their challenge of Jim Rogers’ contradictions and block his coal-fired plants. They also intend to expose his “Save-a-Watt” plan – proposed in several states – as a highly deceptive and hyper-profitable scheme that would inhibit the transition to clean, efficient energy.
“As of today, Duke Energy’s board is on direct notice,” said Grant Smith, Executive Director of Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, speaking of Hansen’s letter. “They will no longer be able to plead ignorance about the risky path that Jim Rogers has plotted for the corporation.”
See Dr. Hansen’s letter to Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers:
See the full study, Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?
See the one-page summary of Dr. Hansen’s new study:
CAC is a statewide consumer advocacy organization of 70,000 members
that has represented Hoosier households on utility and energy issues since 1976.
NC WARN is a grassroots non-profit using science and activism to tackle climate change and reduce hazards to public health and the environment from nuclear power and other polluting electricity production, and working for a transition to safe, economical energy in North Carolina.