Denier: Governor Sununu Says Global Warming May Not Be Caused by Carbon Emissions

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is out of step with scientific consensus on climate change. Photo: New Hampshire residents at the March for Science in Portsmouth. Peter Cedric Rock Smith, CC by NC-ND-2.0

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has now openly denied the scientific consensus that climate change is primarily caused by excess heat-trapping carbon in our atmosphere. Initially, we were hopeful the governor might rise above partisan politics and family prejudices (his brother Michael is an outspoken climate denier) to take a responsible position on climate change. After all, this is New Hampshire, and people here are devoted to the state’s mountains, rivers, and lakes.

During his campaign for governor, Sununu ducked climate questions, but now we know where he stands.

In a recent interview with New Hampshire Public Radio, Governor Sununu revealed that, like others in his family, he denies the science of climate change.

In the interview, partly transcribed here, Sununu appears to acknowledge that the climate has “warmed up pretty much continuously over the last 150 years.” But he doesn’t admit that the gradual warming documented since industrialization is caused primarily by greenhouse gas emissions. And, despite the fact that 150 years of warming have already passed, the governor bafflingly insists he doesn’t want to move too quickly.

Hedging in the evasive manner of partisan politicians, Sununu told NHPR, “I think we should keep looking at it. We have to keep studying it… Is carbon the leading reason why the earth has warmed up pretty much continuously over the last 150 years, I’m not sure. It could be.” Sununu goes on to explain, “[O]ne of my jobs being a good manager is not making drastic decisions one way or the other, not reacting to the pendulum swinging in terms of public perception.” As if 150 years of human-caused warming and worldwide scientific consensus wasn’t enough evidence to act on.

Enough is enough. The scientific consensus is in. Wake up, Governor Sununu, and take action.

Climate change is already impacting New Hampshire’s people and environment. Harmful warming is causing increased incidences of major drought, catastrophic flooding, sea-level rise, more and more Lyme disease in our children (and adults), and historically warm winters across New Hampshire. Chris Sununu likes to call himself a good manager. A good manager would act decisively in the face of such impacts.

But Sununu puts party before people. Asked in the same interview why he refused to sign onto the state-led U.S. Climate Alliance, Governor Sununu fabricated a dog-whistle-type answer as only a real political partisan can.

Sununu says he won’t join other states in taking climate action.

By way of background, when President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international Paris Climate Accord in June, states across the country realized we could still achieve the same or similar climate goals through state action. With no need to sit around waiting for federal leadership, governors started to build a network of states committed to cutting carbon emissions – called the U.S. Climate Alliance. The Republican governors of Massachusetts and Vermont have signed on, along with the governors of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Puerto Rico, and nine other states (so far).

So why didn’t Governor Sununu join the U.S. Climate Alliance on behalf of the Granite State? Well, Governor Sununu told NHPR he wouldn’t sign a piece of paper brought to him by the governors of New York and California. Those states – in his words – are the worst polluters in the nation. According to Politifact New Hampshire, however, this is very much a falsity. As Politifact reports, California and New York used to be big polluters, but in recent years have slashed their carbon emissions to become two of the cleanest states in the nation by per capita emissions. How did they do this? By setting goals to reduce carbon and invest in clean energy solutions and energy efficiency – which is exactly what New Hampshire could do if we signed onto the U.S. Climate Alliance, along with our New England neighbors and others.

Sununu’s true colors are finally showing.

What’s become clear is that, not only does Governor Sununu deny the science on climate, he also refuses to join a bipartisan climate agreement because it has the participation of traditionally Democrat-led states like New York and California. Unlike other Republican leaders in New England, who are able to put aside petty partisanship to get something done across the aisle (thank you Massachusetts and Vermont), Governor Sununu prefers to toe the Trump line even when it harms the people of New Hampshire. (He also supports Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. Read more about that here.)

But the cost of such petty politics is too high for Granite Staters to sit idly by. We won’t stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best when it comes to the future of our children and our state. We must demand that Governor Sununu join the U.S. Climate Alliance, and take meaningful action to fight climate change in New Hampshire. Rhetoric, partisan hedging, and falsehoods are not enough this time.

Join us – demand action, not denial.

In the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, Conservation Law Foundation has committed to pushing every state in New England to join the U.S. Climate Alliance. Our goal is for each of the New England states to commit to enforceable action – not just words – to cut climate-damaging pollution. New Hampshire shouldn’t be the weak link in the puzzle – let’s lead, not follow.

Call Governor Sununu’s office at 603.271.2121 to tell him sign the U.S. Climate Alliance and to support enforceable climate goals. In order for the Granite State to remain a beautiful and safe place to live, work, and play, we must #ActonClimateNow.




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