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Leaving Climate Change Out of the Argument

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 22, 2011 8:31 PM


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Michael Bloomberg, New York City's billionaire mayor for the last decade, can be a force for good when he's not strong-arming local pols to alter NYC election laws (so he can run for a third term) or installing cronies to important positions they are eminently unqualified for. For example, I can now have a drink in a bar without my lungs filling up with a roomful of second-hand smoke. That's huge. Bloomberg has put forward a bold vision for the city's future, which is also huge. So one day he can be a brass knuckles power player and the next day a civic-minded crusader. Yesterday, with news of his $50 million-dollar donation to the Sierra Club, we saw an example of the latter, playing out on a national stage. Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian also notes a telling detail about Bloomberg's anti-coal messaging:

He got New Yorkers to stop smoking and give up trans fats. Now maybe he can convince Americans to see coal as a danger to public health "“ at least Michael Bloomberg says that is the idea behind his $50m (£31m) gift to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. What it's not about is making an argument based on climate change. "If you don't survive today, you are not going to be around for tomorrow," he told me on Thursday, soon after announcing the gift from his philanthropic foundation. "I don't think there is any question that we are doing damage to the global environment but that gets you into an argument that is not necessary, and that the public has trouble thinking about," he said.

Imagine that. Leaving climate change out of the argument. I wonder if the climate moralists will beat their chests in indignation, just as they did when President Obama chose the same approach. UPDATE: In his official statement, Bloomberg also said this:

Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption.

So perhaps it's not accurate for me to say that he's ignoring climate change altogether, but rather that he's chosen not to emphasize it.

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