Contradicting the claims of thousands of climate scientists, Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe global warming is “a crisis.” But when pressed to explain why, Christie said science wasn’t a factor in his position — it was just his “feeling.”
The exchange happened on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The New Jersey governor was asked whether he accepts the science of human-caused global warming — a timely question, given the ongoing U.N. climate change conference in Paris. Christie said he does accept that humans contribute to climate change, but that the issue isn’t a big deal.
“It’s not a crisis,” he said. “The climate’s been changing forever and it will always change.”
Host Joe Scarborough then countered, citing numerous data sets that show the ten warmest years in recorded history have all occurred since 1998. Christie responded by saying he didn’t “buy it,” so MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin chimed in and asked what scientists Christie relied on to make his claim.
“That’s my feeling,” Christie responded. “I didn’t say I was relying on any scientists. I don’t see evidence that it’s a crisis.”
Here’s the transcript:
Chris Christie: “I don’t buy” science showing record-setting years in terms of climate change. “That’s my feeling.” pic.twitter.com/QlB0KnwPHC
— Kia Makarechi (@Kia_Mak) December 1, 2015
To Christie’s credit, he is one of the only presidential candidates who publicly accepts that humans do contribute to climate change. But his rhetoric that the “climate has always changed” and that warming is “not a crisis” is new, and veers to the right of where the New Jersey governor has stood on the issue in the past.
And while many Republicans used to frequently dodge questions about climate change by saying “I’m not a scientist,” Christie’s admission that he wasn’t even relying on scientists was also a new rhetorical tactic.
What was not particularly new, however, was Christie’s assertion that the climate has “been changing forever.” Indeed, Republican candidates seem to be using this phrase more and more to avoid talking about the reality of human-caused warming.
“The climate’s always changed,” however, is arguably just as intellectually dishonest as saying you can’t talk about climate change because you’re “not a scientist.” Literally no credible scientist disputes that the climate has gone through natural cycles. But the scientific term “climate change” does not refer to natural cycles — it refers to the human-caused phenomenon of greenhouse gas emissions, and the changes those emissions create in our atmosphere.
And to the vast majority of climate scientists, the changes those emissions create will result in crisis unless those emissions are reduced. Indeed, this week’s U.N. conference in Paris is widely considered the last chance for an international agreement that could keep warming below 2°C, which most scientists say is the limit to avoid catastrophic food shortages, sharply increased extinction rates, and irreversible sea-level rise, among other things.