New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delighted conservatives last week when he pledged to withdraw his state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) of Northeastern states. Conservative delight, however, quickly turned to frustration as Christie emphasized he was merely taking issue with the political and economic mechanisms of RGGI, but did not disagree with the notion that humans are causing a global warming problem that needs to be addressed.
By apparently carrying water for liberal propaganda regarding one of the most important issues in current political discourse, Christie has shot himself in the foot regarding a key component of his Republican political base.
Christie’s decision to withdraw New Jersey from the costly regional cap-and-trade program was a wise one, but it’s what Christie said rather than what he did that has so angered conservatives. “[W]hen you have over 90% of the world’s scientists who have studied this stating that climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role, it’s time to defer to the experts,” said Christie.
It is not a news flash that climate change is occurring. Climate change has always occurred. And that’s a good thing, considering that just over a century ago the earth was mired in an alarming Little Ice Age.
It is also not a news flash that humans are likely playing a contributing role regarding recent temperatures. Unless some other factors intervene, adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere will warm global temperatures.
But does it necessarily follow from these two simple truisms that we are causing a problem in need of government solution?
Few scientists or historians dispute that the human condition suffered dramatically from the cooling climate of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from approximately 1300 to 1900 A.D. After human civilization flourished during the beneficial climate of the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age brought rampant crop failures, famine, plagues, extreme weather, and human suffering. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age)
Even the Medieval Warm Period, during which the Vikings established settlements in portions of Greenland that are currently buried under longstanding snow and ice, was relatively cool compared to the Holocene Climate Optimum, which prevailed from approximately 9,000 to 5,000 B.C. It is called the Holocene Climate Optimum for a reason, as the warm temperatures greatly benefited human beings and facilitated the rise of human civilization.
Indeed, temperature data reconstructed from Greenland ice cores show that 9,000 of the past 10,500 years were warmer than the current “hottest decade on record.” Human civilization fared remarkably well during those 9,000 years, with the intermittent cold spells being the periods of climatic trouble.
So how did Chris Christie manage to buy into the alarmist propaganda that global warming is a human-caused problem that needs to be addressed?
It didn’t help that Christie appears to have sought the counsel of only one side of the debate. Christie said he “sat down with experts both inside the government and outside the administration in academia and other places to discuss the issue in depth.” Christie did indeed recently invite alarmists from Rutgers University to meet with him about global warming. But Christie has identified no such skeptics with whom he has met. At the very least, one would expect Christie to have conferred with Princeton University professor of physics Dr. William Happer, an in-state scientist who has diligently researched global warming and testified on the topic to the U.S. Congress.
The Rutgers alarmists who recently met with Christie told the media they emphasized to Christie that global warming is threatening New Jersey through rising sea levels, floods, and droughts. However, global warming is having a net beneficial impact on floods and droughts, with floods and droughts becoming less frequent since the end of the Little Ice Age. This is good news, not bad news.
Moreover, New Jersey and the rest of the nation adjusted quite readily to the seven inches of sea level rise during the twentieth century, and sea level rise has slowed down, rather than accelerated, during the twenty-first century. These are facts we can be fairly sure the alarmists forgot to mention in their meeting with Christie.
There is a reason why courtroom defendants get a chance to present their side of the story after the prosecution rests; when you invite people on only one side of a dispute to present their case, you tend to arrive at skewed results. The same holds true for scientific and public policy issues.
As Gov. Christie meets this week with powerful Iowa political donors, he faces a more important, defining moment regarding an even broader Republican constituency. Will he give skeptics the same audience and the same open mind he gave alarmists?
As popular as Christie currently is, he risks alienating a significant portion of the Republican base if he casts his lot with the global warming alarmists – especially if he appears to do so after listening to only one side of the story. And if you don’t think this issue has the potential to come back and bite him in a future presidential run, just ask Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty how they feel about their past global warming advocacy.
James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News
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