Contrasts–Climate Change–A Tale of Two States

Note that this is my second “Contrasts” post. I wish I had thought of the idea earlier in the year. It would have made a great series with the possibilities endless.

This post is based on an article I read from Inside Climate News. This climate news group won the Pulitzer Prize this year for their coverage of  “”The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of,” a project that began with a seven-month investigation into the million-gallon spill of Canadian tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.” You can get on their mailing list for the latest climate change news. They have helped me a great deal in doing this blog.

Let’s get back on subject. The two states are New York and New Jersey. They are right next to each other and both were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The response to that devastation by both states is enlightening. In one corner of this climate change battle is Chris Christie the Govenor of New Jersey.

In the other corner are Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City and Andrew Cuomo, Govenor of New York.

The title of the Inside Climate News story is, “Christie Administration Ignores Climate Change in New Jersey’s Post-Sandy Rebuild”. You can see where this story is going by just reading the title.

“In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of aggressive rebuilding initiatives to protect New Yorkers from future climate-related threats.

But less than a mile away in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River, political leaders reacted in a much different way.

To them, the October 2012 superstorm was just a rare event, not a preview of what scientists expect global warming to bring to the East Coast in the coming decades.

When asked in May about Sandy’s connection with climate change, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said the question was “a distraction” and that global warming was an “esoteric” theory…

Instead of planning for future climate threats, New Jersey focused on rebuilding quickly to get people back into their homes and to get the tourist industry up and running for the lucrative summer season. As a result, the state spent billions of federal aid dollars to rebuild boardwalks, businesses and houses almost exactly as they stood pre-storm…

“Our research doesn’t really look at climate change. That is not an objective New Jersey has right now,” said Tom Herrington, a physical oceanographer at the Stevens Institute of Technology who has been mapping Sandy’s effects on the Hudson River shoreline for the NJDEP.

Nowhere on the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding webpage do the words climate change, global warming, or sea level rise appear, not even under the site’s “resiliency” section…

The strategy also wastes federal funds, the experts said—an ironic decision by a Republican administration that touts itself as fiscally conservative.

“We’re wasting billions of dollars [rebuilding infrastructure] that will just be washed out to sea in the next storm,” said Jeff Tittle, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club…

The divide between what is happening in New Jersey and New York reflects a larger national trend. Political leaders increasingly see Sandy and other extreme weather events as wake-up calls for what’s to come from global warming. But many others still don’t acknowledge the connection. The two reactions, experts warn, could cause a disparity in how neighboring communities cope with the impacts of stronger storms, heat waves or sea level rise.”

Climate change wasn’t always a politically taboo subject in New Jersey. In fact, the state was once seen as a national leader on climate issues.

In 2007, state legislators passed the Global Warming Response Act, which mandated a 20 percent reduction in New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. State agencies started improving energy efficiency standards, increasing public transit options and developing more renewable energy. They also embraced stricter floodplain construction laws and began looking at fortifying the state’s 1,792-mile coastline. By 2009, New Jersey was the second largest producer of grid-connected solar energy in the United States, behind California. It was also a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a coalition of states in the Northeast that pledge to reduce CO2 emissions…

All this changed when Christie entered the governor’s office in January 2010.

Almost immediately, Christie closed the Office of Climate Change and Energy in the state’s DEP. He also cut off funding for the Global Warming Response Act, effectively rendering it a stagnant law, said Mauriello, who was replaced as NJDEP commissioner when Christie took office.”

“Across the Hudson River in New York is an entirely different scenario. Both New York City and the state have made addressing climate change a key priority in their post-Sandy recovery. According to a recent InsideClimate News report—Bloomberg’s Hidden Legacy: Climate Change and the Future of New York City—Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his staff recognized almost immediately after Sandy that New York City needed to do more than just rebuild. It needed to stave off future climate threats.

In June, the Bloomberg administration released a $19.5 billion climate adaptation strategy, known as the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, complete with 257 initiatives to safeguard the city from stronger storms, fiercer heat waves and rising seas. All of the work is rooted in hyper-local climate projections created by a team of regional climate scientists.

At the state level, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created a $400 million land-buying program for the most vulnerable areas that pays clusters of homeowners the pre-Sandy values of their houses. The structures will be torn down and the property left vacant to act as a natural buffer for future storms. Cuomo also has proposed a climate change-based building code and is funding flood and climate resiliency projects across the state…

The fact is, however, that as neighbors, what affects New York also affects New Jersey. Scientists and environmentalists say the two states need to create a comprehensive climate action plan, one that projects the whole region. If they don’t, a seawall built by one state, for example, could worsen flooding in the other.”

The story goes on to explain how New Jersey may miss out on other Federal Sandy Aid because of their approach. Remember this story in 2016 when Christie is the Republican nominee for President. 


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