Last week, as news circulated of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s weight-loss surgery, so did a video in which Christie parodied his own brand — and the fleece he wore day and night during the Hurricane Sandy crisis. In the video, he asks everybody from Morning Joe to Jon Bon Jovi if they’ve seen his now-missing fleece, without which he is powerless, like Iron Man without his suit.
It was, after all, while wearing that infamous fleece that he raced across his state, doling out no-nonsense quips about recovering from the storm. And who can forget the iconic images of Christie and President Obama surveying the wreckage together, finding love, it seemed, in a hopeless place?
Christie seemed genuinely consumed by the unprecedented destruction caused by what the environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben called a “Frankenstorm . . . stitched together from some spooky combination of the natural and the unnatural.”
And yet, when asked the obvious question — how Christie would address the climate change challenges that contributed to the superstorm and will, undoubtedly, create more in the future — the famously blunt governor said, “Now maybe, in the subsequent months and years, after I get done with trying to rebuild the state and put people back in their homes, I will have the opportunity to ponder the esoteric question of the cause of this storm.”
What’s “esoteric” about looking into the causes of the extreme — and extremely destructive — weather of the past few years? What’s “esoteric” about doing everything possible to prevent another Sandy-like storm? There are lessons to be learned — and we ought to learn them.
Christie’s refusal to engage on climate change is all the more surprising because of the significant environmental commitments he made while campaigning for his first term — commitments that garnered him the coveted endorsement of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.
This time around, the NJEF is supporting his gubernatorial opponent, New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono. Why? Because since entering the governor’s mansion, Christie has failed to deliver on his promises, while reversing and even dismantling crucial components of New Jersey’s environmental framework. He reduced the state Energy Management Plan’s renewable and efficiency goals. He diverted $700 million from the Clean Energy Fund to other purposes.
Christie also unilaterally pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — a successful collaboration between nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that seeks to address climate change by capping carbon emissions.
Christie’s actions confound. This is the same person, after all, who once admitted, “Climate change is real… [and] impacting our state. Human activity plays a role in these changes.”
He may not be engaging in climate denial talk — but he’s embracing climate denial policies.