The politics of climate change and its impact on the 2016 presidential race played out in a microcosm Tuesday morning, with one side of the debate in Paris and the other in New Hampshire.
Speaking at a press conference at the international summit on the climate, President Obama said, “Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously. They think it's a really big problem. It spans political parties … So whoever is the next president of the United States, if they come in and they suggest somehow that that global consensus, not just 99.5 percent of scientists and experts, but 99 percent of world leaders, think this is really important, I think the president of the United States is going to need to think this is really important.”
Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose languishing presidential campaign has recently found its footing in the first GOP primary state of New Hampshire, joined the chorus of Republicans who have chastised the president for focusing on climate change instead of the fight against ISIS and for placing the blame for the environment’s woes on human activity.
“The climate is always changing and we cannot say, we cannot say that our activity doesn't contribute to changing the climate. What I'm saying is it's not a crisis. The climate has been changing forever and it will always change and man will always contribute to it. It's not a crisis,” he said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
When host Joe Scarborough noted there has been a string of record-setting years for temperature, Christie replied, “I don't buy that, Joe.”
“I just don't buy that it's a crisis. I don't buy the fact that it's a crisis. I just don't,” he said.
The environment has ranked below other hot topics on the campaign trail, including the economy and national security. However, two-thirds of Americans think the United States should join a legally binding global climate change agreement, according to a poll by CBS News and The New York Times released on Monday.
The survey found 63 percent of Americans favored regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants, versus 31 percent who opposed them. The public was split on whether the United States should restrict drilling for oil and gas on public lands, with 49 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed.
The environment hasn’t been much of an issue in the crowded GOP primary field, where a majority of contenders have dismissed the idea that humans contribute to increased temperatures.
But it has become a central topic on the Democratic side, particularly over the Keystone XL Pipeline. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has touted his long-standing opposition to the proposed pipeline and attacked former secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not coming out against it sooner.
This weekend Sanders became the first White House hopeful to oppose a new natural gas pipeline project in the Northeast.
“I believe the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline that would carry fracked natural gas for 400 miles through 17 communities is a bad idea – and should be opposed,” he said during the Jefferson Jackson dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire.
His comments are sure to keep the topic alive ahead of the next Democratic debate on December 20.