HARTFORD, CT — While the issue of climate change hasn’t gained a lot of traction in the gubernatorial debates, recent news events have moved it — if not to the front burner, at least off the back one.
The combination of yet another devastating hurricane hitting, this time in Florida and Georgia, and a new interview given by President Donald Trump to 60 Minutes this past Sunday has stirred the debate about whether human habits have helped create the especially active hurricane season this year and whether changing those habits will make a difference.
Back in Connecticut, climate change has taken a back seat during the gubernatorial debates to questions about taxes and the state’s economic woes.
“Global warming is an important issue that has real consequences,” Republican nominee Bob Stefanowski said. “That being said, I also believe we need to take the politics out of the discussion because both the left and the right use the environment as a political punching bag — it shouldn’t be.”
During a candidates forum Oct. 7 Stefanowski downplayed the state’s role in climate change by saying the federal government will have more of an impact.
On Tuesday he said the state does play a role.
“We should encourage the use of sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources, like wind and solar,” Stefanowski went on, adding: “State policy should strike the correct balance between environmentally friendly policies and the financial and regulatory burden we put on families and small businesses.”
A spokesperson for Democratic nominee Ned Lamont referred to his position statements on the issue.
“The facts are clear and the evidence incontrovertible: our earth is getting warmer, ice caps and glaciers are melting, the sea level is rising, and an array of other related events are underway from storm surges to droughts,” Lamont’s statement reads.
“I strongly believe that human-induced climate change is an urgent threat that must be tackled immediately, and as governor I will rebuild the political conversation on climate change and what we must do to prepare for a new future.”
Lamont has said he would look to achieve ambitious emissions targets including becoming a carbon neutral economy by 2050.
Trump has been a long-time climate change denier, suggesting that the concept was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” But, in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday he backed away slightly from those claims, saying he no longer believes the warming of the planet is a hoax.
“I’m not denying climate change,” Trump told interviewer Lesley Stahl.
At the same time, though, Trump suggested that climate change might not be caused by humans; that he did not want to take any action that would harm the American economy; and that the warming of the planet by industrial emissions would reverse of its own accord.
“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” said Trump. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s man-made. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”
Lamont has stated that transitioning “to a sustainable energy future will create thousands of new jobs in the green economy — not destroy jobs as the Trump administration alleges.”
Oz Griebel, who petitioned his way onto the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, said he thinks climate change is “definitely a serious issue for Connecticut and definitely an issue that the governor of Connecticut should play a leadership role in.”
Griebel said Connecticut has two concrete issues to deal with when it comes to climate change: “rebuilding along the shoreline and using our intellectual capital to be as smart as we can about using renewable energy.”
“These are serious policy issues,” he said. “The seas are clearly rising and we can’t just be rebuilding willy-nilly on the shoreline.”
On Monday, touring Hurricane Michael damage in Florida and Georgia, Trump said while he does believe the climate is shifting, he argued that any worsening may not be permanent, as well as questioning the overwhelming scientific agreement that global warming is caused by human activity.
“There is something there, man-made or not. There is something there. It is going to go back and forth,” Trump said while visiting Georgia. “We have been hit by the weather, there is no question about it.”
However, he noted there had been violent hurricanes, causing widespread destruction, in the past.
“The one they say was worse, two or three times worse — was one in the 1890s and one exactly 50 years ago,” Trump said. “Winds were 322 kilometers an hour. Who knows? That’s what the numbers are.”
Trump has previously dismissed claims — backed by most of the important scientific bodies — that greenhouse gases caused by human activity are responsible for a rapidly warming planet, triggering ever more extreme weather.
He has even dismissed international pushes to reduce greenhouse gases as a hoax invented by rival China to cripple US industrial might.
A United Nations report by a panel of 91 scientists from 40 countries found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels by 2040.
In order to prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, according to the report, pollution must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.
The report released last week also found that, by 2050, use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop to between 1 and 7 percent and renewable energy would have to increase by as much as 67 percent. Coal is generating about nearly 40 percent of electricity currently and wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources currently make up about 20 percent of the electricity mix.