Rising sea levels are threatening low-lying nations; 2015 is on track to be the hottest year on record; the last five years have been the hottest five years on record; scientists say that “Sandy-level inundation events will occur more frequently in the future;” climate change is already killing 400,000 people a year … but Chris Christie says nah, there ain’t no crisis.
And on this issue, in today’s Republican Party, Chris Christie is what passes for a moderate.
It’s no mystery why he’s in denial mode. There’s no way he can get traction in the New Hampshire primary, and kick-start his long-moribund presidential bid, unless he panders to the loons, trolls, and right-wing radicals who, on this issue, have made the GOP the laughing stock of the western world. No other major political party denies the reality of the climate change crisis. No other major political party requires its candidates to talk like fools. As conservative columnist David Brooks wrote earlier this week, “On this issue the GOP has come to resemble a Soviet dictatorship.”
Christie is Exhibit A.
But before I quote what he said yesterday — he had a long gig on the Morning Joe show — let’s track his flip flops. He has already ensured that he’s in sync with the party’s Soviets.
Back In June 2011, he made the mistake — albeit briefly — of endorsing common sense: “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.” That was bad. You can’t hope to win a GOP nomination by lauding “scientists” and “experts.” And so, by 2013, he was dodging the climate change issue altogether, insisting that he had no time for “esoteric” topics. And when asked, in ’13, whether he had ordered Jersey agencies to prepare for future climate change emergencies, he replied, “I don’t agree with the premise of your question.”
So yesterday, at a time when President Obama and other world leaders were meeting in Paris to tackle the climate change crisis, it was no surprise to hear Christie sounding nuts.
Sitting with his Morning Joe hosts, he initially tried to dodge the issue entirely: “The president is focused on the wrong climate change. The climate change we need is the climate change in this country. The climate change right now between the people and the government is just poisonous …”
His hosts reeled him back to the issue at hand. Does he believe in man-made climate change? And the urgency of dealing with it?
Christie: “The climate’s always changing. The climate’s always changing. And we cannot say that our activity doesn’t contribute to changing the climate. What I’m saying is, it’s not a crisis. The climate’s been changing forever, and it will always be changing. And man will always contribute to it. But it’s not a crisis.”
(At least by GOP standards, this is why Christie is a moderate: He conceded, in a backhanded way, that humans do “contribute” to climate change; and he acknowledged that the climate is indeed changing, albeit in supposedly natural ways. Compared to candidates like Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Ben Carson, and Senate denialists like James Inhofe — all of whom insist that climate change isn’t happening at all — Christie comes off as the font of enlightenment.)
Still, Christie’s main claim — “it’s not a crisis” — didn’t sit well with his hosts. Joe Scarborough, the ex-Republican congressman, pointed out, “We’ve had one record-setting year after another as far as the heat on this planet.”
Christie: “I don’t buy that, Joe.” (The World Meterological Association has tracked the last record-setting five years, but Christie says he doesn’t buy it.)
Joe: “What do you mean, you ‘don’t buy it’?”
Christie: “I just don’t buy the fact that it’s a crisis. I don’t buy the fact that it’s a crisis. I just don’t.”
Again Joe asks, why not?
Christie: “Because I just don’t believe it is, and I don’t see any evidence that it’s a crisis.”
To see such evidence, all Christie needs to do is read. From today’s report on how the Marshall islands are disappearing:
“As the burning of fossil fuels increases heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the planet warms, and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt into the oceans. Sea levels are projected to rise one to four feet across the globe by the end of the century, a series of major international scientific reports have concluded. Most of the 1,000 or so Marshall Islands, spread out over 29 narrow coral atolls in the South Pacific, are less than six feet above sea level – and few are more than a mile wide. For the Marshallese, the destructive power of the rising seas is already an inescapable part of daily life.”
Anyway, Christie’s hosts were still trying to pin him down: “What scientists agree with you” that there’s no crisis?
In response, he mouthed this gem: “That’s my feeling. I didn’t say I rely on any scientists.”I suspect that Christie doesn’t even believe this tripe. It’s a symptom of the GOP’s Soviet dictat that someone from the governing wing — a supposedly sane alternative to charlatans like Trump and Carson — feels compelled to talk like a brain-dead Internet troll. And given the global crisis at hand, it’s tragic.