Chris Christie Uses Salty Language To Make The Climate Resiliency Argument

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his entourage leave the beach after looking at new sand dunes being built with discarded Christmas trees in Bradley Beach. 1/14/13 (Credit: Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)

Governor Chris Christie’s home state of New Jersey has been picking up the pieces left by Superstorm Sandy for 6 months, and it has become quite evident that the governor has little patience for those who stand in the way. He made that perfectly clear during a town hall meeting this week:

When Gov. Chris Christie told the kids “cover your ears,” at a packed town hall meeting on Long Beach Island today, you knew something was coming.

The topic was building dunes to protect the Jersey Shore in case another Sandy hits — something the Republican governor is gung-ho about.

But some property owners are refusing to give the federal government access to their property. And Christie isn’t happy about that, saying these “knuckleheads” are claiming the state wants to build everything from roads to bathrooms and showers on their land.

“Let me use an indelicate word,” the governor told the crowd, giving his warning to the kids. “Bullshit. That’s what that is … That’s the excuse they use. Here’s why they’re really concerned: They don’t want their view blocked.”

“We are building these dunes, okay?” Christie said. “We are building these dunes whether you consent or not.”

Overtaxed national flood insurance and realistic coastal planning are important conversations to have. Still, “knuckleheads,” eminent domain, and FCC complaints aside, what Christie is really talking about here is climate resiliency.

Across the country, people who live on or near the coast are discovering first-hand the dangers of a warming climate. Storm surge, coastal flooding, more powerful storms, sea level rise: All are happening more frequently as our carbon emissions change the thermodynamics and chemistry of our atmosphere and oceans. The warmer it gets, the more energy storms encounter as they head toward the coast. And the warmer it gets, the more glaciers melt into the sea and the oceans expand, making storm surges that much higher.

While states like South Carolina would prefer to metaphorically cover their ears (instead of being asked to do so physically like the children warned in Governor Christie’s town hall) and pretend sea level rise is not an issue, this cannot be ignored. The sea level off Atlantic City has risen nearly 4 millimeters per year since 1911.

A Center for American Progress report out this week found that for the last two fiscal years, federal taxpayers were on the hook for $136 billion in domestic disaster aid. $60 billion is for climate change-fueled Superstorm Sandy.

What about those dunes? It’s true that sand dunes, whether natural or artificial, are an important strategy in protecting vulnerable coastal populations from the risks posed by damaging storms. So are salt marshes, coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses. And so is reducing carbon emissions. Governor Christie may acknowledge humans are responsible for climate change, and he may be advocating for climate resiliency, but he still pulled his state out of RGGI: an effective, economically beneficial regional cap-and-trade system.

Becoming climate resilient is important because we are locked into a certain amount of climate change — probably about 69 feet of sea level rise as of now, though we can still affect whether that happens relatively fast or slow. That said, making real progress on the causes (mitigation) of climate change-amplified storms would be more impressive than preparing for the next one (adaptation) even if that preparation involves swagger, swear words, and sand dunes.

13 Responses to Chris Christie Uses Salty Language To Make The Climate Resiliency Argument

  1. rollin says:

    I wonder how much extra fossil fuel was burned due to Sandy. It must be a huge amount with all the repair and rebuild. Now they are building sand dunes and guess where that energy comes from (quarrying to transport to placement).

    New Jersey is a leader in solar PV installation. I have always been suspect of any cap and trade scheme.

    Love the “blue carpet” so the big boys don’t get sand on their shoes.

  2. Mark E says:

    We’re locked in to “about 69 feet” of SLR?????

    See the last link in the article…. was that supposed to read “6-9 feet”?

  3. Mark E says:

    wait strike that…. guess I should have followed the link first.

    Still, to avoid kneejerk loss of credibility due to newbie readers’ incredulity, why repeat that flabbergasting number without stating the timeframe?

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What ‘time-frame’? Every time-frame produced by the timid, Saudi vetted IPCC has been starkly wrong, erring on the Pollyanna, Pangloss side of the equation. Which reminds me-I saw a mew denialist imbecility amongst The Guardian’s hordes of pet Rightwing lunatics at CiF today. One knuckle-dragger asserted that, because the predictions of Arctic Sea Ice loss have proved catastrophically wrong regarding the speed with which Arctic summer sea ice has disappeared, therefore all the other predictions of climate science must also be wrong, therefore the whole thing is a giant conspiracy.

  5. Joan Savage says:

    I really doubt that Christie was endorsing climate resiliency.

    New Jersey’s dune reconstruction is a stop-gap, as property owners refuse to take a loss on property at a doomed location. No wonder Christie was cranky, the dune reconstruction is for the economic comfort of the same people who complained about it blocking the view.

    What they are doing is the opposite of resiliency; they are stiffly holding on to locations that no longer are safe.

    If we want ‘resilient’ access to the Jersey shore, we may rediscover the other ways to visit its changing form, without counting on permanent structures.

  6. Superman1 says:

    “as property owners refuse to take a loss on property at a doomed location.” How can they avoid it? Who in their right mind would buy a place now on e.g. Absecon Island (Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, Longport, etc), after what happened during the hurricane?

  7. Superman1 says:

    Another positive feedback mechanism; fossil energy used to repair damage from climate change-driven events!

  8. Jake says:

    A story I read about this earlier had one home owning couple say that they were ready to sign, just as soon as they put the language about the land being used only for dunes in. I don’t see why it would be so hard for Christie to make them put their signature where their mouth is by putting this in.

  9. Brooks Bridges says:

    Good one!

    On second thought, might (sadly) actually become significant over the next few decades give the short term view of humans.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s so Christie doesn’t sink into the sand, get bogged, and need to be dug out. Not a good look.

  11. Mark E says:

    Maybe its actually a sexy way to get republicans to talk about the issues and take the science more seriously? If it’s really a campaign, it is a BRILLIANT way to set the agenda.

  12. Joan Savage says:

    Meanwhile rental properties will probably generate seasonal income for as long as they can. The turnaround time on construction and reliable return on investment has changed, though.

    I rather hope to see more modest replaceable cabins and tent sites over the next several decades, or sooner.

  13. Joan Savage says:

    Maybe so! Come to think of it, the demographic map of Christie’s gubernatorial election showed he had won along the coast and lost in cities further inland. Among states heavily impacted by storms, New Jersey may be distinguished as the first state with major impacts in GOP majority ‘red’ districts. Katrina hit a ‘purple’ state, and Irene hit ‘blue.’

    I might be missing something. Severe storms that hit Florida and the southern coasts may have had political impacts that haven’t been noticed as much at Christie’s responses.