Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) rejected the notion that Hurricane Sandy’s damage was worsened by climate change.
At a ceremonial event to mark the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore boardwalk post-Hurricane Sandy, Christie responded to a question from WNYC/New Jersey Public Radio about how the state could have better prepared for the consequences of climate change:
Well, first of all, I don’t agree with the premise of your question because I don’t think there’s been any proof thus far that Sandy was caused by climate change. But I would absolutely expect that that’s exactly what WNYC would say, because you know liberal public radio always has an agenda. And so since I disagree with the premise of your question I don’t feel like I have to answer the rest of it.
Of course, this isn’t about whether Sandy was “caused” by climate change. It’s about whether climate change and sea level rise are making such storms more frequent and much more destructive (see links below) — and that is something we can plan for.
Christie is already one of the few Republican leaders that acknowledge human activity causes climate change. Even so, he still casts it as a second-tier issue. “Maybe in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with rebuilding the state and getting people back in their homes,” he told reporters in February, “I’ll have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the causes of the storm.” He even acknowledged climate change is real in the same speech where he announced that he was pulling New Jersey out of a regional compact aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Contrast Chrstie’s words with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who said, “We have a one-hundred year flood every two years now.” Still, both governors make the case for greater greater resiliency, even though Christie does not directly reference climate change. The different responses also characterize the gulf in NY and NJ preparations for climate change. According to a report from WNYC, New Jersey overlooked climate change warnings before Sandy, which resulted in it losing over one-quarter of its public transit fleet. Meanwhile, New York had consulted scientists on climate change-related incidents, and lost 19 of its 8,000 rail cars.
What Christie fails to grasp is the impact climate change is having on his constituents today, including coastal flooding, powerful storms, sea level rise, and drought. Extreme weather has also cost taxpayers $136 billion in the last three years, with Sandy’s toll alone at $60 billion.