Special Report

Chris Christie and Climate Skeptics

The governor won't meet with a leading New Jersey warmist critic.

By 5.9.13

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Hello from the Paul Robeson Center for The Arts, located on Paul Robeson Place, just a few blocks down from Princeton University. They like their hardcore communists here in Central Jersey. But they also make really great coffee, which is why I make it a point to meet up with my long-time lefty friend in Palmer Square where we have plenty of options. In print, we’ll call her “Moonbeam,” to prevent our association from destroying her standing in the community, and to make it clear that her environmental policy stances are detached from reality.

I’m scheduled to have lunch later in the day with William Happer, a leading climate skeptic and professor of physics at Princeton University. He’s not convinced human activity is the primary driver of warming and cooling trends, and sees mostly natural influences at work. Happer is not alone.

Over 1,000 scientists have gone on record to dispute the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been used to advance the idea that human emissions are largely responsible for the warming that occurred in the latter half of the 20th century. The IPCC also claims anthropogenic (manmade) global warming will likely lead to catastrophic climate change. This means government officials must intervene to restrict fossil fuel use and other industrial activities to save the planet. That’s the standard line widely embraced by the mainstream media, but it’s wearing thin in light of new evidence that show solar rays and other astronomical influences are largely responsible for global warming. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which is set to release a new report this year, probes the connection between solar activity and climate change much to the consternation of UN alarmists.

The NIPCC has been sharply critical of climate models used in the UN report for greatly overstating the amount of warming that has actually occurred in comparison to actual scientific observations. The appendix attached to the NIPCC lists 31,478 American scientists who have signed a petition that says “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” Moreover, the NIPCC calls attention to the beneficial influences on both animal and plant life associated with rising levels of carbon dioxide; another key point often missed in media coverage of climate change.

That’s why Professor Happer would like to have an audience with Gov. Chris Christie. After announcing that he would withdraw New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) during a May 2011 press conference, Christie quickly pivoted away from previous comments he made that were very much skeptical of manmade climate change.

“I’m certainly not a scientist which is the first problem,” he told members of the press. “So, I can’t claim to fully understand all of this. Certainly, not after just a few months of study. But when you have over 90 percent 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. Climate science is complex though and we’re just beginning to have a fuller understanding of humans’ role in all of this.”

Here’s the problem. That 90 percent figure comes from a subset of a larger survey. It is designed to dupe and to create the illusion of scientific consensus on climate. Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers, exposed the perfidy in an article published in 2010.

“The number stems from a 2009 online survey of 10,257 earth scientists, conducted by two researchers at the University of Illinois,” he explained. “The survey results must have deeply disappointed the researchers – in the end, they chose to highlight the views of a subgroup of just 77 scientists, 75 of whom thought humans contributed to climate change. The ratio 75/77 produces the 97 percent figure that pundits now tout.”

That’s clear enough, but no one in the governor’s office seems to be listening. Or, if they are listening, then they are carefully controlling the flow of information. Happer is concerned that the alarmist side now has the governor’s ear and not without good reason. Here is how Christie concluded that same press conference:

The future for New Jersey is in green energy and already we’ve put in place policies to broaden our access to renewable sources of energy, cleaner natural gas generation and ending our reliance on coal generation…From this day forward any plans that anyone has regarding any type of coal-based generation of energy in New Jersey is over.

By favoring “politically correct energy that does not actually produce energy over energy that works,” Christie could jeopardize his standing with GOP voters who are eyeing him for a 2016 presidential run, Marc Morano, editor of Climate Depot, said. “Before Gov. Christie can even think of higher office, he needs to be schooled in the fundamentals of climate science and energy production,” he added.

Thus far, he does not seem to be going in this direction. Press reports indicate that Christie is deferring to alarmist scientists from Rutgers University while resisting overtures from well-credentialed skeptics. Here is what Happer told TAS in an email:

I have indeed tried, through politically connected friends, to get a chance to brief Gov. Christie in private, but without success. I am told that he has met with climate alarmists from Rutgers University, but I cannot confirm that. I do not know what he really believes about climate. The increasing discrepancy between observations of climate and predictions of computer models is the most persuasive of many lines of evidence, to me at least, that show that the climate establishment has grossly exaggerated the warming from increased CO2. But the governor has very little science background, and is not equipped to make these judgments for himself.

Back in Palmer Square, Moonbeam and I discuss Christie’s performance in office and his re-election effort. We’ve made our way up from the Robeson Center to Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street.

We touch on Gov. Christie’s showdown with the teachers unions, his pension reforms, the future of education, and, of course, the environment. She also balks at my characterization of Robeson, the homegrown artist, civil rights activist, and, yes, hardcore communist. Anticipating as much, I read back to her a quote from Paul Kengor, a Grove City College professor and author, who has the lowdown on the subject:

Liberals and progressives are great at fundamental transformation and redefinition and Paul Robeson is yet another progressive project where they fundamentally transform this man into a modern day progressive freedom fighter,” Kengor said. “But Robeson was an actual member of Communist Party U.S.A. We know that because Gus Hall, the long-time head of the Communist Party U.S.A. went public with the info on the 100th anniversary of Robeson’s birth in 1998. Robeson was a commitment Stalinist, he wept at Stalin’s funeral, he wrote eulogies and poetry for Stalin and even moved his family to Russia. New Jersey should not be honoring him. Let’s please have some truth in education.

So there.

“But New Jersey is a tolerant state,” Moonbeam tells me. Apparently, this explains the continued enthusiasm for Robeson. “That’s why we need to fully fund public education and that’s why we need to protect the environment,” she adds.

I tell her that spending does not equal achievement. Last time I checked, New Jersey was spending almost $20,000 per pupil (one of the highest ratios in the entire country). Yet, urban schools continue to turn in a miserable performance. Instead of pouring more money into an effective education system at the direction of the unelected New Jersey Supreme Court, why not allow the voting public to speak through its elected representatives and advance reforms that empower parents and schoolchildren as opposed to the unions?

If your gut instinct tells you that Moonbeam is not inclined in this direction because “New Jersey is a tolerant state,” than you’re catching on.

Turns out this approach is a little too 18th-century for her and other contemporary Princetonians. There’s a long progressive tradition here that reaches back to Woodrow Wilson who previously served as president of Princeton University before becoming the state’s governor. It was Wilson who organized the first serious attack on the ideals of the founding period while serving as president of the United States. He was arguably outdone by New Jersey Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, who became a forceful proponent of the “living constitution” when he was later named as an associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s quite the one-two punch.

Despite the mixed messages Christie has sent on global warming policy, he has on balance been a force for good. By confronting the power and influence of organized labor and the activist judiciary, he has done more than any other governor in recent memory to restore self-government in the Garden State.  

So why not meet up with a prominent constituent who can talk sense on climate?

“I would guess that climate believers, quite possibly good Republicans, have managed to control access to the governor and that he is content to let them determine his stance,” Professor Happer surmises when we meet up on campus. “I think there is a lot of climate silliness here in New Jersey. For example, solar panels are being installed on many utility poles throughout the state. Someone has turned a nice profit selling them to the utility companies. But a back of-the-envelope calculation shows that solar panels contribute almost nothing to the power supply. This is cargo-cult energy policy, which increases the power bill of NJ utility customers, and which has no benefits, except for enriching a few who profited from the installation.”

Before leaving, I circle back to Moonbeam and ask whether her hero Robeson would have stood up for climate skeptics. I also wanted to know whether her version of tolerance extends to Happer.

If not, then how about the First Amendment? Or is that also too 18th-century?

That’s a question the governor will need to answer as he gears up for re-election in a state where the environmental movement holds considerable clout.

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About the Author

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with free market think tanks associated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. He has also written for the Daily Caller, the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, NetRightDaily.com and NewsBusters.