Which Political Leader Will Deal with “Weather on Steroids?"
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
This week climate change went from political taboo to lead endorsement criteria for at least one elected official—New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg, who endorsed Barack Obama in a BloombergView entitled “A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change.”
In his editorial, Bloomberg wrote that, “Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
In the face of a genuine human, societal, and economic catastrophe, President Obama, Governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie, and Bloomberg—all the front line public officials responsible for witnessing and addressing the full impact of Hurricane Sandy, have in different ways stepped beyond their comfort zones. The devastating impacts and enormous costs have forced these political leaders to recognize that for proper management and planning, politicians can no longer afford to dance around the climate change issue fearing to call a spade a spade in deference to the sensibilities of climate deniers and those who fund them.
Now the question is: Will any of these elected officials truly step up to become a leader in the New Green Growth Economy? And if they did, what might that look like?
Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo launched the Solutions Project nearly a year ago and has been working with Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering, to plan a conversion to renewable energy.
“We have the same longitude and the same energy mix (of wind and solar energy) as Germany which is moving from its present rate of 20% towards getting 50% of its energy from renewables,” says Ruffalo. Using Germany as a model, with the right leadership, a state like New York or New Jersey could easily launch and emerge as a national leader in renewables.
In addition to creating 100,000 jobs, reducing health costs by lowering pollution levels, and protecting its existing industries, converting to renewables would “take a big bite of climate change, “ Ruffalo maintains. “New York is the center of media and finance, and can set an example to the country and the world.”
The question remains which if any of the leading politicians will recognize and act on this potential.
As the Republican governor of hard-hit New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has garnered national media attention for his new alliance with President Obama. Although he introduced Mitt Romney at the Republican convention, the crisis has prompted him to all but endorse Obama, while not so subtly dissing Romney. If the President is re-elected to a second term, the unlikely Obama-Christie partnership could continue to display a sorely needed new model of bi-partisanship, if it extends beyond the immediate aftermath of the storm. This would position Christie as a strong contender for Republican nominee in 2016. The question— and a big one—is whether Christie, who is capable of forthrightness and stepping out of the box, will be willing to break ranks with Republicans to really stand up for the environment. As of now New Jersey has better solar incentives than New York.
As Mayor of New York City, business titan, media mogul, and independent, Bloomberg, whose mayoral term ends in 2013, has a unique insider-outsider position from which to take leadership and galvanize investment. Moreover, both his late date endorsement of Barack Obama, and his rationale for it, signal readiness to take this on. Obama “sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; (Romney) does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics,” said Bloomberg in his presidential endorsement.