Louisiana’s Governor-Elect: A Climate Change Skeptic in a State Ravaged by Climate Disaster

As Louisiana grapples with escalating hurricanes and the inevitable rise of sea levels, the state’s leadership takes a hard right turn with the election of Jeff Landry as governor. A staunch critic of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, Landry has dismissed climate change as a “hoax,” championing the interests of polluters over environmental safeguards.

It’s a surprising turn for a state whose coastline is literally disappearing, where the battle against climate catastrophe is most urgent. Yet, Landry’s sweeping victory in the first round of voting signals a potential rollback of his predecessor’s climate commitments, tilting the state toward a more fossil fuel-friendly future.

Landry’s tenure as attorney general was marked by legal crusades against the federal government, from oil lease sales to the Keystone XL pipeline, and especially against EPA regulations on Louisiana’s notorious air pollution. His legal challenges have not just targeted environmental policies but also civil rights protections, as he contested EPA efforts to address the toxic pollution in “Cancer Alley.”

The incoming governor has also fought against adapting to climate disasters, most recently suing FEMA over its new flood insurance system. With this legal assault, he’s joined forces with oil industry giants to sue the Biden administration for limiting Gulf of Mexico oil leases and for trying to evaluate the “social cost of carbon.”

Landry’s past as an oil industry advocate is well-documented, and his political ascent began with pushing for resumed drilling in the Gulf post the BP oil spill, equating Interior Department officials to Nazis when they declined his demands. His tenure in Congress was underscored by his pro-oil stance, made visible when he held up a “Drilling = Jobs” sign during an Obama speech.

The contrast with outgoing Governor John Bel Edwards couldn’t be starker. Edwards’ climate action plan was in line with Biden’s national goals, but Landry is expected to overturn these as soon as he takes office. His win has been lauded by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, predicting continued support for fossil fuel projects.

Yet, Louisiana’s new governor might find common ground with Edwards on one front: coastal restoration. Both Landry and state voters, regardless of party lines, have backed efforts to mitigate coastal erosion, a direct response to the visible impacts of climate change.

This shift in leadership paints a grim picture of environmental and climate progress in Louisiana. In a state where the evidence of climate change is at one’s doorstep, Landry’s victory signals not just political change but a fundamental challenge to the state’s future sustainability and safety. As Louisiana prepares for Landry’s tenure, environmental advocates brace for impact, hoping that some bipartisan efforts, like coastal restoration, will endure despite a governor who seems set against the tide of climate action.