Gov. Christie: Climate Change An “Esoteric” Issue that “People Don’t Give a Damn About”
Christie’s Climate Denial Puts People, Future of Shore, Federal Funds Needlessly At Risk
Governor Brags He is Clueless on Climate Change
Christie Beyond Climate Denial in Pursuit of Climate Dismantling
One of these things is not like the others,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
- ““I have no idea. I’m not a climatologist and in the last hundred days I have to tell you the truth, I’ve been focused on a lot of things, the cause of this is not one of them that I’ve focused on,” Christie said in response to a question about the role climate change could have played in fueling the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. “Now, maybe in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with trying to rebuild the state and put people back in their homes, I will have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the cause of this storm. …If you asked of these people in Union Beach, I don’t think they give a damn.” NJ Gov. Chris Christie, Feb. 5. 2013
- We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. ~~~ President Obama Inauguration Speech
- First thing we have to learn is to accept the fact – and I believe it is a fact – that climate change is real. It is denial to say this is, each of these situations is, a once-in-a-lifetime.”~~~ NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo State of the State Address – 1/9/13Excerpts on NJ’s “State Hazard Mitigation Plan”
- GRADUALLY OCCURRING phenomena are more predictable and allow for long-range planning and measured preparation. On-going data collection, research, and modeling continue to refine our knowledge concerning the effects of climate change on the expression of phenomena that are regarded as coastal hazards. The U.S. Geological Survey evaluated the vulnerability of the mid-Atlantic region to the effects of sea level rise. The results of the study are presented in the report, Potential for Shoreline Changes Due to Sea-Level Rise Along the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Region. The USGS study indicates that most of New Jersey’s coast is highly susceptible to the effects of sea level rise.
- SEA LEVEL CHANGE – While the precise rate of sea level rise is uncertain, current models indicate that climate change will cause the rate to increase. Based on the trend of sea level rise from 1961 through 2003, sea level would rise by almost 6-inches by the end of this century in the absence of any effects of climate change. Taking climate change into account, sea level is projected to rise between 7 and 21 inches by 2100. This increase would result in the threat of more sustained extreme storm surges, increased coastal erosion, escalating inundation of coastal wetlands and saline intrusion.
184.108.40.206.1 Preparing For Coastal Hazards & Climate Change
- New Jersey Sea Grant College Program prepared a thorough manual that provides valuable guidance for addressing coastal hazards. “The Manual for Coastal Hazard Mitigation”* (PDF) is,”… intended to serve as a resource for individuals, and federal, state, and local officials with which to form the basis of informed coastal hazard mitigation decisions.”
- Preparing for Climate Change: A Guidebook for Local, Regional, and State Governments, provides a process designed to guide regions and communities in preparing for the effects of climate change. In addition, The Heinz Center has prepared a report on human vulnerability to coastal disasters.
We’ve written that the Gov. – working through his puppet Bob Martin – has managed to whitewash and dismantle the DEP Coastal Hazard and Climate Change programs, but he couldn’t get to the State Police – maybe Christie should spend some time reading his own “State Hazard Mitigation Plan” instead of doing Letterman and the Superbowl?
In a jaw dropping display of climate change denial, NJ Governor Christie went off on a rant at a press conference in Union Beach yesterday, when asked about Sandy and climate change (see: Sandy recovery, not climate, on Governor Christie’s radar):
The failure to acknowledge a link between climate change and Sandy will have “direct, concrete consequences,” said Bill Wolfe, an environmental blogger.
An executive order signed by President Obama in December that established the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force calls for an understanding of the future risks posed by extreme weather events, Wolfe said.
“The point is, New York is going to have a leg up,” he said.
Wolfe attended Christie’s event Tuesday and tried to ask the governor a follow-up question on that specific issue but was shot down by the governor, who said, “I’m not answering your question because you’re not in the press.”
That morbidly obese man in that Big Empty Suit refused to answer this question, posed by yours truly (paraphrase):
“Governor: President Obama issued an Executive Order to coordinate the federal response to Sandy. It emphasizes the need to plan for future storm risk from climate change, extreme weather, and sea level rise.
Similarly, yesterday, recognizing Sandy as a climate change wake up call, NY Gov. Cuomo pledged a $400 million program to buy out flood prone properties.
Given that you have not engaged climate change, NJ’s open space fund is broke, and DEP has ignored multiple warnings from scientists and actually reduced the priority on coastal hazards in NJ coastal zone management program, do you think NJ is at a competitive disadvantage in receiving federal funds just approrpriated to the various federal agencies, who will review NJ’s rebuild plans subject to the Obama EO policies?
But the Governor is way beyond denial of climate change.
He has systematically attacked and eliminated, defunded, or destroyed NJ’s policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the consequences of climate change.
I) Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Ignored
In 2007, the Legislature enacted the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA – “Act”).
The Act set aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of 20% by the year 2020, and 80% by 2050, based on a 1990 emission baseline.
In 2009, DEP submitted a Report to the Legislature, as required by the Act, setting forth recommendations for meeting the short term 20% and mid term 80% emission reduction goals. (See this for full Report).
A) Short term emission reduction goals
The DEP GWRA Report describes three programs that will meet the 2020 20% goal:
Three core measures form the backbone of New Jersey’s plan to meet its statewide 2020 GHG limit. The core measures implement the:
- New Jersey Energy Master Plan (EMP);
- New Jersey Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) program; and,
- Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program.
Here’s is how those 3 core measures have fared under Gov. Christie, who
1) weakened the renewable portfolio standards of the EMP;
2) shifted the EMP’s focus from conservation and efficiency to expanding in state power production and pipeline construction;
3) diverted $680 million in Clean Energy Funds to implement the EMP to close State budget shortfalls and pay for tax cuts;
4) unilaterally pulled NJ out of RGGI.
5) Christie was unable to destroy the LEV program because he couldn’t – it was a federally approved program.
B) Long term emission reduction goals
The DEP GWRA Report recommends specific steps required to meet the Act’s 80% reduction goal by 205o:
Actions Now for Future Impact
While meeting the State’s 2020 GHG limit is an essential first step for New Jersey, implementing additional measures in the near-term will ensure that the State stays on track to meet its 2050 limit. In addition to the three core recommendations, this report identifies a set of 22 supporting recommendations (see Table ES-1) to ensure attainment of the 2020 statewide limit. Additionally, this report acknowledges the GHG emission reductions anticipated as a result of several other significant statewide public policies.
Successful implementation of these recommendations will require the participation, collaboration and cooperation of a broad spectrum of State agencies, businesses, organizations, public officials, and New Jersey citizens. Therefore, outreach and education will be a crucial component of the State’s efforts, as discussed in greater detail in Chapter 5 of this report.
Here are some of the most significant recommendations that Christie killed outright, ignored, or defunded, including land use, transportation and direct regulation of additional sources of GHG emissions:
- Recommendation #1: Establish standards for fossil fuel EGUs
- Recommendation #2: Implement requirements for non-EGU industrial sources
- Recommendation #3: Develop and facilitate the use of State Green Building Guidelines for all New Residential and Commercial Buildings
- Recommendation #4: Develop and facilitate State Green Building Remodeling, Operations and Maintenance Programs for all Existing Residential and Commercial Buildings
- Recommendation #14: Develop Agricultural Best Management Practices to address energy efficiency, renewable energy and the release of GHGs in agricultural operations and structures
- Recommendation #18: Establish a carbon footprint standard for transportation projects
- Recommendation #21: The State will work in partnership with local and regional entities to conduct an infrastructure capacity assessment of the 113 municipalities that will benefit from the ARC tunnel
II) Adaptation – Coastal Climate Change Vulnerability and Risks Ignored
Governor Christie has: 1) gutted NJ climate change programs, 2) ignored,suppressed, and denied “extreme weather” and other infrastructure vulnerability warnings; 3) outsourced climate change adaptation planning; 4) diverted over $680 millionin clean energy funding; and 5) his DEP actually deregulated rebuilding of public infrastructure and private rebuilding in the same highly vulnerable locations and elevations.
We previously explained all this in depth. We:
- identified expert warnings that were ignored by DEP
- criticized the Gov. Rebuild approach and Czar
- explained previous efforts to respond to climate change and catastrophic storm risks
- recommended benchmarks to judge Christie’s Sandy rebuild plans
- compared Christie to President Obama’s Sandy Rebuild policy
- compared Christie to NY Governor Cuomo’s Sandy response
In all that, we failed to highlight 2 extremely revealing things:
1) The Christie DEP managed to delete all the climate change related findings from the Section 309 Coastal Hazard Assessment Report.
DEP’s 309 Coastal Hazard Assessment Reports have long explicitly recognized that “strategic retreat” policy option- a finding and a policy that has changed under Gov. Christie – the most recent 309 Report excluded the “strategic retreat” concept. Here are the prior DEP findings that have been eliminated:
Many parts of New Jersey’s densely populated coastal area are highly susceptible to the effects of the following coastal hazards: flooding, storm surge, episodic erosion, chronic erosion, sea level rise, and extra-tropical storms. Reconstruction of residential development and the conversion of single family dwellings into multi-unit dwellings continues in hazardous areasâ€¦ the value of property at risk is increasing significantly. With anticipated accelerating sea level rise and increasing storm frequency and intensity, vulnerability to the risks of coastal hazards will not abate; it will only become more costly.
Development in areas suited to the inland migration of coastal wetlands serves to preclude this adaptation and the wetlands will either diminish in extent or will be lost to inundation.
All of the impediments to meeting this 309 programmatic objective that appeared in the last New Jersey Coastal Zone Section 309 Assessment and Strategy remain. These include lobbying efforts of special interest groups, legal challenges to DEP permit decisions, provision of flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, and public perception that large-scale beach nourishment projects eliminate vulnerability to coastal hazards.
Titus demonstrates (link) that in certain instances, structural engineering solutions will not be practical or economically feasible. In these cases future public and private development and redevelopment must be directed away from the hazardous areas. While some derogatorily refer to this option as “retreat,” from the perspective of sound planning based on the best available science, the concept actually involves “strategic adjustment.” Prudent planning requires that we expand upon the existing studies of the societal, economic, and environmental costs of possible mitigative actions while the greatest number of alternatives exist.
[Read full 2006 DEP 309 Report]
Those DEP expert findings are now gone – deleted – down Orwell’s memory hole. Why was that done?
2) The DEP downgraded the priority of coastal hazards in that 309 Report from “high” to “moderate”.
Just as NJ faced Irene and Sandy, it was downplaying the priority for coastal storm risks.
To avoid any discussion of all this that documents this outrageously bad record, Christie has gone into attack mode, against FEMA and all critics.
In addition to going into attack mode, the Governor has lied repeatdly to the public and the press. Here are just a few of his more egreegious lies:
1. He falsely stated the bid he used was a “competitive bidding process”. FEMA directly contradicts that:
Piggyback contracting is a concept of expanding a previously awarded contract. Piggyback contracting does not meet the requirements … because it is non-competitive and may have an inappropriate price structure,” the manual states, according to the paper.
2. He falsely stated that the percentage of FEMA flood insurance claims processed – Christie said 30% FEMA says over 50%. (link forthcoming).
3. He lied about the FEMA map elevations too by claiming that they address Sandy and sea level rise. NJ Spotlight –
Asked if the new standards reflect projections of rising sea levels due to global climate change, Christie responded, “They say yes.’’
But the new FEMA ABFE maps do not address actual Sandy elevations of projected climate change, sea level rise, and stronger storms. See this Asbury Park Press article by Todd Bates:
“According to FEMA, Sandy & sea-level rise were not included in analysis that led to the ABFE maps”
4. He denied climate change – see Bergen Record story today
5. He failed to prepare for the storm and denied climate change after the storm: – see this FEMA Climate Adaptation policy
6. He lied about “engineered beaches” protecting development watch Star Ledger video:
7. in the Union Beach PC yesterday, when asked point blank if he would support creating a website to provide more transparency and accountability for Sandy rebuild money, he flat out refused to do so. His lame excuse was that he didn’t want to divert staff from helping people to updating a website.
As we’ve repeatedly argued, the Governor has a poor record and is very vulnerable when the focus shifts away from his demagoguery to the substance.
Just yesterday, you saw that in Union Beach – especially when he refused to answer my question, because the bully inside that Big Empty Suit is really afraid of someone who knows enough and is willing to hit back.