Governor Christie's recent statement that he's skeptical about the science behind climate change is a major shift and will hinder New Jersey's economic viability when it comes to green technologies. His statement at a Town Hall meeting in Toms River deviates from his prior support of renewable energy during the gubernatorial campaign.
This change in positions has more to do with political science than sound science. Every renowned scientist believes climate change is real, including those at Rutgers University, Princeton University, and the Department of Environmental Protection. The Governor's words are hot air because they will lead to climate change and the continued pollution from greenhouse gases.
This politically-calculated move by Governor Christie not only goes against the best interest of the people and economy of New Jersey. We have already seen the impacts of climate change on New Jersey. As a coastal state, we are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and the storm surges that occur from climate change.
By aligning himself with the right wing of Republican Party, the tea party, and other groups funded by coal industry, the Governor may get political gain but will impose long-term consequences to New Jersey's environment and economy.
The Governor's recent move to cut clean energy funding already sent a chill through the green energy community. By publicly doubting climate change, the Governor will further undermine New Jersey's efforts as we try to develop green industries, especially offshore wind and turbine manufacturing.
Business and financial institutions that invest in green technology, including offshore wind, need assurance that the government is supportive and will not pull the rug out of green energy projects. Investors and entrepreneurs will only do business in New Jersey if we're moving forward, not dismantling key programs that promote these technologies. If we want companies to install and manufacture green technology here in New Jersey, we must show support or they will simply go to states where there is a friendlier business climate.
New Jersey has proven itself a leader in green technologies and the Governor's statements will undermine our progress. New Jersey is second nationally in the number of solar installations and we may be the first to develop a large offshore wind project. We've seen the start of two new solar manufacturing facilities and a fuel cell plant. We are among the top 10 in the number of both start-up and venture capital green technology businesses.
What message does the Governor's statement send to businesses that are eager to capitalize on green technology for the betterment of the people and the environment? By doubting the very existence of climate change, Governor Christie is undermining New Jersey as a state that embraces these new technological advancements.
This is opposite of other Republican leaders, like former New Jersey governors Christie Whitman, Tom Kean, and Governor Schwarzenegger, who recognized the threat of climate change. Furthermore, New Jersey has always been a leader in the fight against global warming. We've seen bipartisan passage of the Global Warming Response Act and Clean Car legislation. The state sued the Bush Administration for freedom to regulate greenhouse gases.
But it's not surprising that the Governor is setting himself up to further dismantle key efforts to stop climate change. Since he came into office, has a dismal record on issues surrounding climate change on the environment in general. He eliminated the Office of Climate Change and dismantled the Division of Science to a mere advisory board stacked with industry insiders. The administration also abandoned the greenhouse gas monitoring plan.
The Governor has not only tried to put a lid on sound science, he has eliminated funding for key programs that help promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.
He has taken away more than $460 million from clean energy programs, to balance the budget. This will lead to more pollution and hurt our economy. He has cut $67 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is aimed to fight climate change and reduce carbon pollution.
By eliminating funds from RGGI and other programs aimed to fight climate change, it gives credibility to extreme groups looking to do away with key laws that protect the environment. The Governor's cuts have economic impacts; New Jersey has seen the loss of 4,000 jobs because of his cuts to clean energy programs just this year.
There is very real data that shows climate change can impose devastating circumstance on New Jersey. According to research by top scientists, almost 10 percent of New Jersey could disappear as a result of global warming, including places like the Meadowlands and Barrier Islands on the Jersey Shore. Climate change would devastate our $39 billion coastal tourism industry, destroy forests, and hinder our cranberry industry and as well as other agriculture industries.
It is unfortunate the Governor is now playing politics with climate change and is doing what's in his political interest over what is best for the people. New Jersey's economy, its people, its environment, and its land will be devastated by climate change. A governor who fails to recognize this problem is only putting our state in harm's way.
Jeff Tittel is the Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club.
ALSO BY JEFF TITTEL