Christie’s Courageous Climate Stance

August 25th, 2011 at 2:00 pm | 63 Comments |

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When it comes to climate change, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie annoys people on both extremes of the political spectrum. One more reason to see a bright future for this guy.

On the far left, the Daily Kos types fulminate that Christie is a stooge of fossil fuel interests. Over on the far right, the vein throbbing set obsesses that Christie has joined the church of Al Gore.

This is a positive development. In defying ideologues and their litmus tests, Christie is blazing a trail that could lead the U.S. out of its polarized rut on energy and climate policy.

What did Christie do that resulted in such diverse outbursts of ideological bloviation?

On August 19, he vetoed a bill that would have returned New Jersey to the Northeast’s regional cap-and-trade program for power plants. It’s called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI for short. He explained his veto as follows:

While I acknowledge that the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing, that climate change is real, that human activity plays a role in these changes and that these changes are impacting our state, I simply disagree that RGGI is an effective mechanism for addressing global warming.

In vetoing the bill, Christie angered enviros on the left who insist that acceptance of climate change science is not enough. One must accept the left’s preferred climate policy options, or you’re another marionette of the Koch brothers.

In explaining his veto decision, Christie upset the chattering classes on the right who have handed down a diktat that acknowledging the heat-trapping properties of carbon dioxide ipso facto makes one a crypto socialist. One must embrace climate Lysenkoism or be branded an enemy of liberty.

Set aside for a moment the merits of Christie’s policy judgment about RGGI. What’s important here is that he framed the debate about climate change as it should be framed – a debate about which policies should flow from a commonly understood and accepted set of facts. The left should be willing to have that policy debate and the right should stop conflating scientific questions with identity politics.

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63 Comments so far ↓

  • Gus

    It’s a sad commentary on state of the Republican party that acknowledging the existence of something about which there is overwhelming scientific consensus counts as courageous.

    • Stewardship

      I think the title has more to do with alliteration than actual courage.

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      No kidding. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

      Set aside for a moment the merits of Christie’s policy judgment about RGGI.

      No.

      The emotions you feel when you close your eyes and think about Chris Christie are really neither here nor there.

      This post is 100% devoid of any policy argument whatsoever. It’s just, “LOL LIE-BURALS! LOL FAR-RIGHT!”

      It’s politics as a pose. But remember: the reason we care about the government is because it implements policies that affect people’s lives. This post actually detracts from its readers’ understanding of the world.

      As to the issue itself, let’s not forget:
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/despite-rick-perry-consensus-on-climate-change-keeps-strengthening/2011/08/23/gIQAMT3UZJ_blog.html “In 2010, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a survey of 1,372 climate researchers, finding that 97 to 98 percent of those publishing in the field said they believe humans are causing global warming.”
      http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=902 “An overwhelming number of scientists (84%) say the earth is warming because of human activity, while just 4% of scientists say there is no solid evidence the earth is warming. Yet only 56% of Americans say that scientists agree that global warming is real and man-made.”

      Christie is part of the party that lies to America every day about the science of climate change. And as far as we can tell from this post, his proposed solution is: nothing.

      If you think that counts as “courage” from a Republican, then you must really hate Republicans.

      • Graychin

        I agree with Elvis. When has someone ever stood out in a crowd for meeting such low expectations? Soft bigotry indeed.

        I foresee a hard road to the White House for Christie if he frames things in a way that pleases no one. Where is his base?

        (The next time I will vote for a presidential candidate who needs a limo ride to move his carcass 100 yards, he’d better be FDR!)

  • Stewardship

    Spot on. Thanks.

  • Manix

    While establishment GOPers would welcome him with open arms should he ever pursue national office there would be significant resistance from tea-nuts and the anti-knowledge, anti-science, anti-sharia crowd for his heresies.

  • TerryF98

    He would be showing actual courage instead of Faux courage if at the same time he was not withdrawing his state from an emissions control program. Actions speak louder than words.

    To say global warming exists then to allow more pollution is hypocrisy.

  • sweatyb

    On the far left, the Daily Kos types fulminate that Christie is a stooge of fossil fuel interests. Over on the far right, the vein throbbing set obsesses that Christie has joined the church of Al Gore.

    And everyone in between just thinks Christie is a self-obsessed jerk.

    But, you know, kudos to him for doing his own thing or whatever. He’s a real maverick.

    I like this quote from Christie’s veto letter: “To be effective, greenhouse gas emissions must be addressed on a national and international scale.”

    He’s pulling out of RGGI because it’s not a national program? What a doofus. (But still super mavericky!)

  • Saladdin

    So, a Republican agrees with the general consensus of the scientific community and he’s courageous? Please, the bar you’re setting is quite low now.

    Also, “This is a positive development. In defying ideologues and their litmus tests…”

    So, not being an absolutist is okay if you’re a Republican, but if the President does it, it’s a problem, right?

  • Emma

    What complete nonsense. Congratulating Christie for not trashing science. How about we congratulate him for not peeing in his pants — it’s of roughly the same order of adult behavior.

    The moderate conservative establishment has a real dilemma: descend into the black pit of Republican idiocy or give up its major voting block. Failing to do either, we get Dipeso’s standing ovation for a politician — a belligerent, uncouth politician, at that — for not soiling himself in full view of the New Jersey electorate.

    Well done, Dipeso!

    • jamesj

      “How about we congratulate him for not peeing in his pants”

      We’re getting to the point where this is honestly pretty impressive for someone on Capitol Hill. Needlessly shoving a stick into the spokes of the nation’s reputation and credit is surely more shameful than peeing one’s pants.

      • dugfromthearth

        You are correct. Christie said something that upsets many if not most GOP voters. It is pathetic how ignorant most GOP voters but that does not make it any less courageous what he said.

        It’s like saying that firefighters on 9/11 were not brave because all they did was go into a skyscraper. It is not what you do that makes you brave, but the dangers you face because you do it.

        • drdredel

          The firefighters who went into the the towers on 9/11 were not any braver than any other fire fighter that goes into any burning building. They didn’t go in thinking “what if this building falls down??” (because that’s never happened before, so, there’s no reason for them to fear such a calamity). They went in thinking “I hope I don’t die of suffocation or being burned alive”. And that’s in no way unique to 9/11. that’s just what fire fighters brave… which is why they’re deemed (correctly) as REALLY brave (also a little nuts).

          As for Christie, he’s not making these comments in South Carolina. He’s in New Jersey where the only way to get elected as a GOP member is to be REALLY centered. He’s not risking anything at all by acknowledging that science is real. That’s precisely what his (very left leaning) Right base wants to hear. They’re not the ones who’re going to vote for Bachman or Perry! NJ is a blue state. And Christie, quite rightly, doesn’t give a flying fuck what the Tea Partiers think of him. He’s not interested in their vote, and is probably smart enough to know that if and when he ever does run for president, he’s not going to get their vote anyway, and will vie for the independent voters who can’t abide any of those right wing buffoons.

  • jamesj

    “On the far left, the Daily Kos types fulminate that Christie is a stooge of fossil fuel interests. Over on the far right, the vein throbbing set obsesses that Christie has joined the church of Al Gore.”

    Funny how similar this sounds to a current president.

  • jamesj

    “In vetoing the bill, Christie angered enviros on the left who insist that acceptance of climate change science is not enough. One must accept the left’s preferred climate policy options, or you’re another marionette of the Koch brothers.”

    You forgot to mention that the majority of climate scientists and the majority of economists analyzing this specific case of negative externality also support measures like RGGI. Funny that you described that entire bundle of experts as “enviros on the left”.

    • balconesfault

      You forgot to mention that the majority of climate scientists and the majority of economists analyzing this specific case of negative externality also support measures like RGGI. Funny that you described that entire bundle of experts as “enviros on the left”.

      +1

      The whole point of measures like RGGI – which virtually all involved will readily admit are insufficient, and that national and even international cooperation is called for – is to start to put upward pressure on the system by building those structures at a regional level and create working models for the next steps at a national level (if the GOP is ever removed from having a majority in the House and 40 votes in the Senate).

      Isn’t it the GOP that’s always bitching about how the Federal Government is pre-empting states? So now when the states start working together … a Republican Governor pulls out of the agreement because the issue demands Federal action?

      What a crock.

  • jamesj

    “The left should be willing to have that policy debate and the right should stop conflating scientific questions with identity politics.”

    Well said. What exactly are the policies being proposed by the right in relation to this issue?

    Now that we’re getting to the point where admitting the overwhelming scientific consensus on the subject is tentatively possible for an especially “courageous” Republican politician, what policies will we be debating? It is hard to believe a debate will be conducted in good faith since the author is almost applauding the veto of a policy supported by majorities of scientific and economic experts concerned with these matters.

    Why are economists wrong when they suggest that economic penalties should be put in place to reveal and balance the costs of these negative externalities? Or should the true cost for this type of negative externality continue to be obscured and distributed across every single person in the market in a silent way (and thus remain dangerously hidden)? Once you’re willing to agree with the scientific consensus you are left with few policy options. You can either accept the environmental costs or you can institute counterbalancing economic costs up front in the hope of slowing the environmental costs. The longer we wait, the steeper the cost curve gets. I hardly think my view makes me a Socialist or an “enviro on the left”.

  • Rabiner

    I don’t find it very courageous to veto that particular bill and say the reason why he was vetoing it was ‘not because the problem doesn’t exist but this isn’t the right way to deal with it’ yet offer no alternative course to deal with the existing problem. Seems like a cop out to me.

    • jamesj

      I agree. What are the policies being proposed by right wing politicians regarding this subject?

      • wileedog

        “What are the policies being proposed by right wing politicians regarding this subject?”

        1. Dig hole in sand
        2. Insert head.
        3. Fill.

  • dafyd

    Rick Perry Takes Lead – Suddenly Romney is a Climate Change Denier.
    Via littlegreenfootballs.
    This headline says a lot, Romney is a pandering POS.

    As for Christie, no Jim, he is being honest and smart not courageous. He is doing exactly what a leader should be doing: following the science and evidence. Stop walking on egg shells with your conservative readers. Instead tell them that no Christie is not being courageous by not denying climate change, but that conservative pols and their supporters who do deny it are ignorant and small minded.
    That may be harsh, but why is it that progressives (no not liberals) have to wait for those narrow minded individuals who are slow to catch up.

  • danimal

    Aren’t solutions such as RGGI market-based alternatives to the top-down regulatory regime usually favored by liberals? I don’t understand what type of policy can be proposed that will be acceptable to the average GOP politician. If climate change is acknowledged as a problem, how can a conservative propose to solve it? The answer from the Inhofe brigades (deny and obfuscate) is understandable, though immoral, but I’m not sure how a reasonable conservative responds, especially if cap-and-trade is removed from the policy arsenal.
    EDITED TO FIX ACRONYM-RGGI

    • jamesj

      I share your view of the situation. It reminds me of the healthcare debate. Modern Republicans are categorically opposing ideas developed and proposed by our Republican forerunners two decades ago. These ideas ARE the rational market-based options. Opposing them puts you in opposition to most economists and leaves you in a no-man’s land of very few alternatives.

      I’m very interested to hear any new idea that anyone can point me to that tackles the negative externalities of global warming or pollution while not being a pure top-down regulation and not being a partially-market-based incentive/penalty system like cap-and-trade. Does anyone know of any viable alternatives? I’m genuinely interested. What are these elusive policies that people like Christie are holding out for?

  • Oldskool

    Why is he so overweight. That’s what puzzles me. Granted, it’s not uncommon, it’s really a reflection of the average person. But still, isn’t he in the setting-an-example business?

    • think4yourself

      Simple. He’s blocking out the sun to help with global warming (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

  • indy

    Now if somebody could pry out his views on evolution.

    Asked, for example, if he personally agreed with creationism or evolution at a news conference last week, he answered, “None of your business.”

    So this is the modern day definition of courageous, eh?

    • Banty

      He gets testy. In another context, he may give a decent answer.

      BTW, I’m not excusifying for him, he’s not my favorite pol, but he is one of those people you have to consider why he answers the way he sometimes answers, and not elevate his every uttering to be on his frickin’ tombstone, you know.

      • indy

        “When you guys ask me questions, I’m going to answer them directly, straightly, bluntly, and nobody in New Jersey is going to have to wonder where I am on an issue,” he said a year ago, adding: “I think they’ve had enough of politicians who make them wonder … They make them wonder so they got an escape hatch. So they have an escape hatch. And I’m not interested in an escape hatch.”

        I really have no idea if he is a good governor or not.

        The original quote was from back in May and not really ‘last week’. My bad, I should have made that clear. As far I know, though, he still hasn’t answered the question, in spite of his own views about evading such questions. I’d be happy to accept a correction on the point if he has said something definitive.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    nothing to add, everyone has already pretty much nailed it. He has not one ounce of the class or grace of a Tom Kean or a Christie Todd Whitman who were far more effective Governors.

  • Banty

    “What’s important here is that he framed the debate about climate change as it should be framed – a debate about which policies should flow from a commonly understood and accepted set of facts. The left should be willing to have that policy debate and the right should stop conflating scientific questions with identity politics.”

    ::clapping and cheering::

    Although I do have to agree with other comments – what *are* the policy alternatives proposed by the climate-change aware right?

  • dittbub

    The only way to get republicans to listen is to get other republicans to tell them.

    Is american politics always this insular?

    • balconesfault

      No. Today’s GOP has taken this insularity, as you will, up to a notch not previously seen.

      My own guess is that it is deriving a lot of its fuel from the dominionist wing. For a true dominionist, the testimony of a non-Christian (or even for some extremists, a non-dominionist) on any matter is unreliable. In fact, not only unreliable – but potentially intentionally misleading, if you believe the carrier of the information is attempting to separate you from the word of God.

      The GOP has largely embraced this mindset, to the point where even non-Dominionists are pready to contend that any information that doesn’t come from conservative media must inherently be wrong.

    • armstp

      If you are a Republican and you are trying to tell other Republicans about climate change you will be labelled a commie and a socialist. You become a RINO.

      • anniemargret

        There’s something deeply wrong and corrupt within the GOP. Denial of reality is not an attractive feature. It might appeal to the fantasy-land fans, but if one is a thinking, rational, sane person you listen to the scientists, not Rush Limbaugh.

        What a hoot. I can’t wait to the next GOP debate….let’s see them denounce climate change on national TV…a real embarrassment in front of the global community who has already embraced it, and with China, doing something about it.

        GOP=NotFitToGovern

  • armstp

    Sad to have to be “courageous” to talk about climate change.

    All the recent analysis from climate scientists has pointed to it being much worse than they thought and things are happening faster than they thought. Some are now saying that the entire polar ice cap will see an entire melt by as early as 2030.

  • armstp

    Check out the movie/documentary “Carbon Nation”. Highly recommend whatever your partisan stripe. It don’t matter if you believe in climate change or not. Just watch the movie.

    See the trailer here:

    http://www.carbonnationmovie.com/

  • MattP

    How many people commenting here drive an SUV or have the A/C running in their parents’ basement right now???

  • jollyroger

    Cap’n Trade (Ol’ Rough Trade, we used to call him) ran a bunch of buccaneers off the dry Tortugas back in….wait, what? Cap and Trade, sorry. That’s a dumb idea–JTTFCA (Just tax the fuckin’ carbon already-pace, Dan Savage)

    • balconesfault

      Best explanation I’ve heard for why Cap and Trade, rather than carbon tax, is because:
      a) you want to create a marketplace whereby innovative solutions will be applied to those places where CO2 emissions can be reduced at the least cost, because that will generate salable credits to other industries
      b) it’s very likely that a tax will have only one shot, given the political realities of dealing with tax increases in America. If the tax is set too low it won’t actually stimulate positive behaviors. If it’s set too high, it actually will harm businesses ability to compete. Cap and Trade formulae will give more ability to tinker.

      • jollyroger

        Cap & Trade is hideously complex (kind of like ACA v. Medicare for All) and unnecessarily prostrates policy before profit opportunities to cajole the powers that own. A nice straightforward tax per ton of carbon, remitted to the working class through massive eitc is more my style , granted impossible to pass with a lumpen prole electorate.

        Of course you can raise the tax–as needed to match the raise in sea level…But all of this ignores the politics of the carbon crisis vs. the policy of it.

  • Smargalicious

    I would definitely vote for Christie for POTUS.

    I just wish he wasn’t so damn fat.

    I mean, he’s so fat you’d have to take a train and two buses just to get to his GOOD side. He is so fat he sweats gravy. The dude is so fat his belly button has an echo.

    I think everyone gets my point.

    • Polifan

      You’re an equal party offender!

      I think everyone gets my point.

    • anniemargret

      What does ‘fat’ got to do with it? Your prejudices are legion, aren’t they? I’m more concerned with the flubber between the ears of the candidates giving any credence whatsoever to the Tea Party lunatics,.

  • TJ Parker

    LOL. Not lying and denying the integrity of nearly all professional climate scientists is courageous!!

    Ah, to be a modern Republican! He should be really bold and tell them that Jesus told the rich to give away their wealth. A-and that torture isn’t very cool after all!

    Poor Christie. He’ll never win the GOP spokesmodel contest if he deviates from the script like that. Well, unless its to save the GOP from its lunatic teavangelicals. “Get the government out of my life and into the lives of those gay Muslim abortionists!”

    • jollyroger

      Christie doesn’t want the repugnant nomination,which is proven by his nomination of a muslim lawyer to a judgeship. SHARIA ALERT!!!DINGDINGDING! AH-ooooGah. AH-ooooGah.

      Catch my drift?

      • TJ Parker

        Can’t really blame him or Huntsman for aiming for 2016 rather than 2012. It’ll be a tough election. The prize will be Presidency during the second half of the Great Recession, with no light at the end of the tunnel, and descent even further into economic malaise if the policies that they espouse are enacted.

        Tho a GOP presidency in 2012 will be good for some new businesses. I’m thinking cat food for seniors might be a good business plan. Nice homey commercials, old lady dining by candlelight with her cat. Sharing. Companionship. Cat food. A winner!

  • valkayec

    Ideological arguments based on politics (or political belief systems and vested interests) are absurd and valueless when it comes to climate change and other environmental hazards.

    Better are a few good pics and solid research: http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

  • jjack

    An elected Republican said something non-crazy and it is news. There are more and more stories like that these days.

    • balconesfault

      Alfred Harmsworth, British newspaper magnate:

      “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

  • LFC

    This reminds me of the reporting on both Bush and Palin during their debates. Neither did very well but they got pats on the back from the mainstream media because they basically didn’t drool down their chins. Low expectations indeed.

  • Alex

    this is silly.

    cap & trade is a 2nd best solution developed and supported by republicans (for sulfur dioxide) until it was supported by democrats. and so down the memory hole it goes.

    i think most environmental economists and enviros who don’t want to go down the command & control route would rather see a carbon tax.

  • kirk

    I like the ‘mortgage backed securities tax’. In this model we extend credit to the limit of each borrowers ability to lie about how they can pay. Then we raise the price of gas just a tiny little bit above what the vast majority of ‘leveraged out the bung hole home owners’ can pay. The resulting shock wave of default cools down the economy to a crawl and. We use less carbon. Simple and painless.

  • rockstar

    Would you vote for a fat a**hole like this? I wouldn’t. And I say that as a fat a**hole myself.

  • Rob_654

    Christie is only a gov of a state at this point. What would be interesting is what he would say if he was running for the Republican nomination in the current Republican climate.

    Would he be the only one who does not raise his hand at a Republican “debate” when they are asked if climate change is a hoax?

    What would Foxnews do to a Presidential Candidate when they had to pick between a Christie and a Perry given Foxnews viewers and what they have been told to believe by Foxnews?

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