Chris Christie Not “Telling It Like It Is” On Climate Change

 

christie

“Real. Honest. Direct. Tell It Like It Is.” Those were the words on a banner at a recent campaign event by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie is one of the latest entrants in the crowded 2016 presidential field, and political observers say that he’s trying to distinguish himself by telling voters the truth, even when it’s tough to hear. The trouble is, Christie doesn’t seem willing to tell the truth when it comes to climate action, clean energy, and the environment.

Denying Need to Act

Where does Christie stand on climate change? He’s not denying the science of climate change, but he does deny the need to act.

Back in 2011, Christie said:

There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate.[…] But when you have over 90 percent of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts.

More recently, in May 2015, Christie said: “I think global warming is real. I don’t think that’s deniable. And I do think human activity contributes to it. […] There’s no use in denying global warming exists. The question is what we do to deal with it.”

That’s a good start, and it is certainly a big improvement over competitors who claim that evidence of climate change is “not conclusive” (Rand Paul) or that snow and ice in New Hampshire prove that climate change is fake (Ted Cruz). However, accepting the science of climate change means accepting scientists’ pleas to act urgently to avoid the worst consequences of a warming world. And, on that count, Christie has failed miserably.

Christie closed his state’s Office of Climate Change and Energy and withdrew New Jersey from the regional carbon reduction program, known as RGGI, calling it a “gimmicky [program] that hasn’t worked.” In fact, RGGI has returned “more than $2.9 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3.7 million participating households and 17,800 businesses” while avoiding the release of 1.3 million tons of carbon to date. More than $1 billion has been invested in programs including energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, greenhouse gas abatement, and direct bill assistance. If that’s a gimmick, sign me up!

Like His Friend Bobby Jindal

Like Bobby Jindal, you’d think Christie might know better when it comes to climate action. After witnessing Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, you’d think Christie would be eager to act. You’d be wrong. Christie has denied a link between climate change and the hurricane, and New Jersey is the only state on the eastern seaboard without a statewide climate plan.

One might think that, as a Catholic, Christie would respond to Pope Francis’s recent encyclical calling for action on climate change as a moral imperative. So far, Christie is still denying the need to act. I’m hoping that he’ll change his tune and tell the “truth” about the need for urgent action as the campaign (and the globe) heats up.

Koch Brothers Influence

For those wondering why Christie is so opposed to climate action, and the RGGI program in particular, some people have an answer: the Koch Brothers despise climate action.

In a New York Times profile of Christie’s refusal to participate in RGGI, a representative from the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity said, “We were exceedingly pleased that the governor got New Jersey out of the R.G.G.I. boondoggle. […] It’s something that A.F.P. in New Jersey worked hard on.” According to the Times, the AFP representative “said the move would be sure to help Mr. Christie’s efforts in the Republican primaries, should he run.”

In March this year, Christie reportedly visited David Koch’s Palm Beach mansion.

Time to Tell The Truth

It’s time for Christie to live up to his self-proclaimed mantra of truth-telling.

Sometimes he says things that are like a breath of fresh air. In 2012, he said, “Having renewable energy in our state, having it be a larger part of our portfolio, creating jobs, is not a Republican issue or Democratic issue. It’s an issue that the people of our state demand we work on together.” I read that and I think, “So true.” But then I read that Christie has cut more than $1 billion from the state’s Clean Energy Fund in order to balance budgets in recent years and I’m reminded that telling the truth isn’t enough. Telling the truth is essential, but acting on that truth is what really matters.

“Here’s the one thing you’ll get with me: You never have to wonder where I stand,” said Christie. Actually, Chris, until your action matches your rhetoric, I have no clue where you stand.

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to check out other recent profiles of 2016 contenders Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Hillary Clinton.

Senator Kirk: It’s time to pick a side on climate action

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois is stuck between the desires of his constituents who overwhelmingly support action on climate change and voices within the Republican party desperate to derail climate action on behalf of the Big Polluter Agenda. But with a series of votes intended to derail the historic Clean Power Plan to cut dangerous carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants coming through Congress, he is going to have to pick a side. The decision should be easy for a politician who has constituents who care about the integrity of the environment. The Senator has devoted time and energy towards protecting the health of Illinoisans, fighting for the Great Lakes and working hard on national security issues: all issues that will require addressing climate change to move the ball in the coming years.

Kirk ad in Trib

That is why the NRDC Action Fund has been running digital ads across Illinois and a social media campaign to urge Senator Kirk to work for climate action and vote against bills targeting the Clean Power Plan. As part of that effort, we were joined by national security and business voices on a letter to the Senator outlining the issues at hand. Here’s the letter:

Senator Kirk:

On behalf of our members in Illinois, the undersigned organizations, businesses, and civic leaders urge you to support real and timely climate action. Among the most important actions in this area would be for you to oppose any proposals to block, delay, weaken or otherwise prevent the EPA from protecting public health under the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

Your work on behalf of the Great Lakes has been greatly appreciated by our groups and memberships, but we want to reach out to stress the need to protect our fresh water seas on all fronts. And looking forward, one of the greatest threats to the Lakes comes in the form of climate change. Climate action is essential for protecting the Great Lakes—not to mention the lives and livelihoods of future generations and our communities.

There is strong business support for the clean power plan, including more than 100 businesses that make up the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition working toward implementation of the plan at the state level.  A study by the Illinois Science and Technology Institute estimated that this legislation would create 32,000 new jobs designing, making and installing the clean energy projects that will put Illinois in compliance with the federal rules.

It’s absolutely essential that we reduce dangerous carbon pollution, which traps heat and is fueling climate change. The nation’s fossil-fuel power plants are the single-biggest source of carbon pollution in the U.S., accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total. Today we limit mercury, lead, and soot from these power plants, but no such limits exist for carbon pollution.

Carbon pollution drives climate change, which is a clear and present danger to Illinoisans’ health and communities, bringing stronger storms, harsher droughts, and rising temperatures—most recently highlighted by findings that 2014 was, globally, the hottest year on record. The National Climate Assessment, a recent report from 13 federal agencies, warned that human-induced climate change impacts are happening today, and worsening in every region of the United States.

Here in Illinois, rising temperatures, along with greater air stagnation and other climate effects, increase ground-level ozone smog. There are more than 1.7 million people with asthma or chronic respiratory disease in Illinois who are especially vulnerable to the harmful health effects of ozone smog, which makes it harder to breathe.  Eleven counties in Illinois currently have ozone levels that exceed EPA standards, and models indicate that areas with high ozone levels, like Chicago, are at risk of even greater ozone smog pollution due to climate change and rising temperatures.

Without efforts to reduce our carbon pollution, heat waves like the one in Chicago in 1995— which killed more than 700 people—could occur as often as once every two years by the 2050s. Heat waves far worse than the one in 1995, such as the 2003 European heat wave that resulted in 30,000 deaths, could occur once every two summers by the 2080s.

The devastating impacts of climate change are not limited to land and air. For decades, climate scientists have warned that significant swings in water levels would afflict the Lakes, warming waters would impact fish species and a loss of Lake ice pack could scour away shorelines. According to the National Climate Assessment, climate change encourages the production of the toxic algae that plagues our lakes and forced the city of Toledo to suspend water service last summer—and it should be noted an algae-related dead zone has now appeared in Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.

So much of the good work you have done on behalf of this globally unique and essential ecosystem which stands at the core of our region’s sustainability and quality of life will be utterly undone by climate change. In order to protect the Great Lakes, you must address climate change.

Senator Kirk, you and Illinois’ leaders have an opportunity to chart a healthy, clean energy future for our state. The Clean Power Plan presents Illinois with the opportunity to improve public health, foster new economic development, and help stabilize our climate.

And people across the state agree. Recent bipartisan polling shows Illinoisans are ready to fight climate change and advance clean energy by an overwhelming margin. Sixty-six percent of Illinoisans support the Clean Power Plan itself, and when informed that states can create their own plans to meet the pollution reduction goals of the Clean Power Plan, a whopping 83 percent of Illinoisans said they support the state developing a plan to reduce carbon pollution, as well as increasing the use of clean energy and energy efficiency.

This is an essential moment for climate action—we urge you to protect our state, our health, the Great Lakes and future generations by committing to oppose any proposals to block, delay, weaken or otherwise prevent the EPA from protecting public health under the Clean Power Plan.

Please let us know what you plan to do on this important issue.

If the Senator needs a reminder that climate issues are already wreaking havoc on his home state, he need look no further than downtown Chicago, where the Chicago River ran backwards last night due in part to climate-induced storms that dumped immense rainfall on the area, overwhelming the stormwater system and forcing millions of gallons of sewage-tainted water out into Lake Michigan.

But the chorus of voices advocating for climate action extends far beyond the environmental and business communities. The military and intelligence community has focused on the destabilizing impacts of climate change–something clearly noted in the most recent quadrennial review.

The climate votes should be easy for Senator Kirk. All the issues he cared about early in his career, and the consensus of his state point to the need for prompt climate action. We will quickly see who he is representing. In the meantime, let him know which side you are on with this online action.

Running Clean: Good Policy, Good Politics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Melissa Harrison, NRDC Action Fund, 202-513-6278, mharrison@nrdc.org

NRDC Action Fund Video & Infographic Shows Roadmap to Success for 2016 Candidates

WASHINGTON (March 17, 2015) – With a look toward the 2016 elections, the NRDC Action Fund is releasing Running Clean: Good Policy, Good Politics, which shows that candidates who run clean are more likely to win because they are supported by voters who want a cleaner environment. Running Clean features three environmental champions outlining in their own words their roadmap to success in 2014 by supporting action on climate change and investments in clean energy. Their path to victory on Election Day, is one all 2016 candidates should embrace.

Our 2014 video series contains video interviews with: Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Gary Peters (D-Michigan).  Their hard-fought campaigns demonstrated that America’s leaders will be supported by voters if they embrace a clean agenda that fosters good jobs, healthy families, conservation and a more sustainable future.

“The last election cycle demonstrated again that running clean is not just good policy, but is also a winning political strategy,” said Peter Lehner, NRDC Action Fund Executive Director. “The NRDC Action Fund produced Running Clean as a roadmap for future candidates who want solid evidence that supporting clean energy and protecting the environment will help provide them a path to electoral victory.  Of course, other factors also play a role, but we now have many races over several election cycles which show that all around the country running clean helps candidates win.”

“It’s simple, Running Clean works,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, NRDC Action Fund Director. “Supporting candidates who run on platforms which endorse clean energy investments, protecting the environment and conserving our natural resources will help us grow the environmental majority across America. Candidates from both sides of the aisle should be looking for opportunities to embrace these issues. Ultimately, candidates want to be on the right side of the values represented by their voters and this is a prime example of what’s best for our future.”

In addition to the video series, the NRDC Action Fund also produced its first Running Clean infographic featuring Senator Peters as a roadmap for future candidates who want solid evidence that supporting clean energy and protecting the environment will help provide them a path to electoral victory.

The Running Clean infographic and videos can be found online at: www.nrdcactionfund.org/runningclean

To view the video interviews:

Senator Shaheen

In her video interview Senator Shaheen says, “New Hampshire has for a very long time recognized that we can balance a strong economy and protecting the environment.”

Senator Schatz

In his video interview Senator Schatz says, “We need more leadership in the area of climate. It is the greatest challenge of our generation.”

Senator Peters

In his video interview Senator Peters says, “Clean energy and climate was something that was relevant to everybody, no matter where I was in the state.”

To view the infographic: Winning Strategy

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The goal of the NRDC Action Fund is to grow the environmental majority across America. The Action Fund is growing power in the places that always matter around the country, so that together we can protect public health and the environment. www.nrdcactionfund.org

Note to reporters/editors: The NRDC Action Fund is an affiliated but separate organization from the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, the NRDC Action Fund engages in various advocacy and political activities for which the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 501(c)(3) organization, faces certain legal limitations or restrictions. News and information released by the NRDC Action Fund needs to be identified as from the “NRDC Action Fund.” The “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund” is incorrect. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the NRDC Action Fund cannot be used interchangeably.  Also please note that the word “National” does not appear in Natural Resources Defense Council.

 

First 50 Days: Nothing but the Big Polluter Agenda

Around the time the new Congress marked its first 50 days, my children’s classes were celebrating the 100th day of school. Students did a hundred math problems, read books for a hundred minutes, and brought in bags of a hundred objects like dried beans and pasta.

If Republicans in Congress marked their milestone in a similar way, they would probably write up 50 ways to gut environmental safeguards or haul in 50 miniature smokestacks.

And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be at the top of the class.

Fifty days into the new Congress, McConnell has established himself as a champion of polluting industries. McConnell devoted much of this session to supporting the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil and trying to block the EPA from reducing climate change emissions. These efforts get a failing grade from public health experts because they would increase pollution linked to asthma attacks, respiratory illness and cancer.

Why has the GOP leadership used the first 50 days to push pollution? Perhaps it has something to do with their super-wealthy donors. Oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $721 million to support their candidates and interests in Congress over the past two years. McConnell raked in $608,000 from the fossil fuel industry for his 2014 campaign.

Yet while most Republican lawmakers stump for more pollution, Americans are calling for less.

A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that fully 70 percent of Americans say the federal government should limit the amount of climate change pollution coming from power plants. Most Americans trust the EPA more than Congress when it comes to addressing pollution, according a recent poll done by the American Lung Association. And 51 percent of Kentuckians wanted McConnell to say he recognizes that human activity causes climate change—something he refused to do in the election season.

A strong majority of Americans want leaders to confront the climate crisis, but the Republican leadership has refused. They have failed utterly to offer any plan for dealing with the biggest environmental and humanitarian challenge of our time. During his campaign, McConnell promised to handcuff the EPA and stop climate action. That attracted industry dollars. But it’s not why most people voted for him. Kentuckians want to breathe clean air and shield their children from disastrous impacts from climate change.

The NRDC Action Fund also made a promise during the midterms: We vowed to hold lawmakers accountable for backing polluters over people.

Our commitment doesn’t end with the campaign cycle. We stay on the job, tracking member votes, tallying industry lobbying dollars, and letting voters know when lawmakers try to make the air dirtier or the water less safe to drink.

So when McConnell spends 50 days pushing the Big Polluter Agenda, we spread the word in Kentucky and beyond. And when Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner votes against incentives for wind energy just months after he posed for a campaign ad in the middle of a wind farm, we let people know.

Because Washington shouldn’t be like Vegas: what happens there shouldn’t stay there. Voters should know what their lawmakers are doing. And they should expect those lawmakers to keep our kids safe from pollution.

 

Toomey Votes Out of Touch with Pennsylvanians

Senator Toomey’s home in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley is only about 3 hours from Washington, DC, but judging from the senator’s voting record the past few weeks, it seems a world away. Toomey has cast one vote after another designed to block action on climate change, undermine clean energy growth, and weaken protections for air and water.

Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania, the vast majority of residents have been calling for the exact opposite.

A full 72 percent of Pennsylvania voters, for instance, support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit climate change pollution from power plants, according to a survey from Hart Research Associates. Even in western coal-producing regions, 63 percent say the EPA should limit this dangerous pollution. And a large majority of Pennsylvanian Republicans—58 percent—feels the same.

Toomey hasn’t gotten the message. The NRDC Action Fund gave him a Dirty Denier award last year for voting against every piece of environmental legislation except one in 2013. Now he is siding with the GOP leadership’s Big Polluter Agenda instead of his state’s own interests.

Perhaps it has something to do with the $445,966 Toomey has received from the oil and gas industries. Or the $865,283 he’s gotten from the conservative Club for Growth, an organization which consistently opposes climate action and where Toomey served as president from 2005 through 2009.

It’s time to bring the news home. Washington, DC is not Las Vegas, and what happens here shouldn’t stay here. People deserve to know what Toomey’s polluter-friendly votes could mean for Pennsylvania.

The nation’s leading experts report that, if we fail to reduce climate change pollution, stronger heat waves and smoggier air will pose significant threats to Pennsylvanians’ health. They also will be hit by more intense storms and floods, like those that came with Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene.

You wouldn’t know it based on Toomey’s votes when the Senate took up the GOP’s Keystone XL bill.

Climate Denial: Toomey voted to acknowledge that climate change is not a hoax and that humans play a role in the crisis, but he opposed an amendment stating that humans “significantly” contribute to climate change. That’s like refusing to say gravity “significantly” contributes to falling objects. Overwhelming evidence confirms that pollution from human activity causes climate change. To shy away from these facts in any way is to deny scientific reality. And to fail to offer any solutions is to leave Americans vulnerable to harm.

Clean Energy Blockade: More than 57,000 Pennsylvanians currently work at 4,200 clean energy businesses across the state. Yet Toomey voted down two amendments that would help solar and wind industries expand—even as he supports giving dirty fossil fuels a free pass from cleaning up their pollution.

Dirty Air: Toomey and his colleague from Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Casey, introduced an amendment that would give power plants that burn “waste coal” a free pass on clean air safeguards. These protections reduce acid rain pollution and sulfur dioxide linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  Pennsylvania has 14 of these plants, and though many similar plants already meet the standards, this amendment would exempt the Keystone State’s polluters—leaving residents to breathe dirtier air.

It’s disappointing to see Casey co-sponsor this dirty amendment, especially when he is usually a champion of clean energy and climate action.

Lawmakers of both parties would be wise to refocus on building a sustainable energy future for their state. Most Pennsylvanians want to tackle climate change and clean up pollution. And those same voters will be going to the polls in 2016 when Senator Toomey is up for reelection.