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Environment

Chris Christie Defers to the Experts on Climate Change

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This is a guest post by Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., an HIV research scientist and aspiring policy wonk, who recently moved to D.C. to get a taste of the action Just a few months ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proclaimed his doubt that climate change is occurring due to human activities. At a town hall meeting held in Tom's River, NJ, Christie made these comments:

"Mankind, is it responsible for global warming? Well I'll tell you something. I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I'm skeptical -- I'm skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we're going to need more science to prove something one way or the other."

Yesterday, he announced that he has changed his position. I'm not sure what science has been done in the last 6 months to convince Governor Christie to make this change. As far as I know, the science today is exactly the same as the science then. Regardless, Christie recently met with two expert scientists, Ken Miller, a geologist with long experience documenting sea level changes, and atmospheric science Anthony Broccoli, both from Rutgers University. I guess all politics (and now science) is local. After holding these meetings, the Governor has apparently seen the light and has decided to defer to the experts on this controversial issue. Here is a clip from the press conference at the NJ State House in which he explains how he came to appreciate the role humans play in climate change: Christie has been touted time and again for his leadership on conservative issues. So, the news of his conversion will surely send shock waves through the Republican Party, many of whom have been carrying the climate skeptics' flag for some time now. Is this a sign that the Republican Party may soon be "coming to Jesus" on the climate issue? We can only hope, but Christie needs to look no further than is his own administration to find individuals who are actively undermining climate science. It's one thing for a politician to acknowledge an awakening. It's another thing for him to do something substantive to respond to the threat of climate change. To be honest, he has already made a few decisions. First, he has withdrawn from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a joint cap-and-trade effort by 10 Northeastern states to address the issue of greenhouse gases at the regional level. Although this may appear to be contradictory, Christie argues that “RGGI has not changed behavior and it does not reduce emissions." He continues, “we’re looking for broader results that benefit all ratepayers and all citizens.” Now, this sounds a lot like Bush's justifications for pulling out of the Kyoto Treaty, however Christie backs up his words with this bold announcement,

“there will be no new coal permitted in New Jersey. From this day forward, any plans that anyone has regarding any type of coal-based generation of energy is over…. We need to commit in New Jersey to making coal a part of our past.”

Now, I have been a critic of Christie, mainly because of his support of fellow conservative Ken Cuccinelli, despite his attacks on Michael Mann, but I welcome his new voice. For now, he has my attention and I hope Republicans are listening, as well. *Correction has been made to the final sentence. There is no evidence that Christie supported Cuccinelli's attacks on Michael Mann.

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