The Family Business


Hey there outside in listeners. There is a single stray f-bomb in the story that we have left unbleached if you'd like trying to skip it. It comes at about eighteen and a half minutes when we're talking about the conclusion of a global climate negotiation. So good luck. As I said, I've had the privilege of knowing working with John and his son Michael over the last six years, I've learned much from that association. I'm confident that you'll feel the same after today. It's my distinct honor to introduce governor John Henry sununu. This is Joe Delia a meteorologist who doesn't believe human activity is driving global warming. Introducing John H sununu in two thousand thirteen sununu served as governor of New Hampshire for six years from nineteen Eighty-three to nine hundred eighty nine in political circles, he's famous for being a rhetorical knife fighter and attack dog and an expert Crafter of incendiary soundbites, and that's any row peak environment reporter in New Hampshire. Public radio's newsroom. Thank you very much. Joe? We've gathered to bring some reality and some sound science to the ongoing debate on climate change and global warming. John H sununu is famously whip smart. He reportedly scored near the top on a test that billed itself as a mega IQ test intended to distinguish who are the smartest among geniuses following his governorship. He was White House chief of staff, and is something of an elder statesman to the GOP, and I'm pleased to be amongst the this very distinguished gathering of experts who have come to make sure that the world knows that the debate on the science is not over as chief of staff John H took a special interest in the subject of global warming. But the anti-growth and antidevelopment crowd are a very hardy bunch. They won't give up John H gave the speech at a conference Hartland institute a think tank that has focused on trying to rebut mainstream climate. Science in this speech to new lays out his theory of the origins of global warming. My message today is to make sure we recognize that no matter how effectively we deal with exposing the errors and games behind that agenda. We need to know that the battle will never end because the issue is not really global warming. This. Global warming crisis is just the latest surrogate for an overarching agenda of anti-growth and antidevelopment that grew and gathered support in the years after World War Two global warming. John H argues is a Trojan horse carrying within its belly the real objective massive reformed capitalist system, socialism and the scaling back of economic growth. One of the first issues to be celebrated as a crisis by these reformers was overpopulation. That fad peaked in the sixties and seventies the bible of that coat. The population bomb argued that the battle to feed all of humanity is over and acclaimed. We had lost the battle predicting that in the nineteen seventies and nineteen eighties. Hundreds of millions of people would starve to death. That clearly phony crisis was followed by warnings about global climate change. Argues that the primary tool of these plotters is computer models in nineteen seventy two a group called the club of Rome used a computer model to argue the world would soon face resource, scarcity food shortages and economic collapse by the end of the nineteen ninety s all of which failed to materialize, John H sununu argues that similarly climate researchers have cooked the books use the models to achieve a predetermined outcome, but cast of characters involved in this has expanded a bit. But at the core there is an unbroken lineage back to those unbelievably wrong unscientific prognosticators. The speech were hearing is from twenty thirteen and maybe you've heard arguments like this, perhaps even recently be expensive. This would be absolutely tremendous. I mean, there's no way to even comprehend how much implementing this would cost. Well, first of all H L Mankin who was a democrat said it correctly, the urge to save you Mandy is almost always a false face for the urge to rule. This is really about socialism. This is nothing more than a socialist Trojan horse. That's why they've inserted all sorts of programs into the green new deal that have nothing to do with green energy. But John H sununu has been making this argument since the nineteen eighty s well before global warming became politicised at intractable back when there was twenty percent less carbon in the atmosphere. And when there was more time to transition to a lower emission society. What's interesting about sununu is that he developed. This whole skepticism and. All of these objections on his own and yet now they have become in various in various forms. The main talking points of of the right and climates in islets. But I think he came at them independently. So in some ways, he's kind of prime mover there. This is author Nathaniel rich in the nineteen eighties. There was a growing lamentable to address climate change momentum that ultimately fizzled out. This was the moment. We're history could have swerved in a very different direction. Rich, I wrote a detailed account of this period in article cold losing earth. But an expanded book version is due out next month. It's a tale. That prominently features John H sununu now if you look at it if you just came to them cold you'd say, oh, he's one of the rest of them. But now, I think actually strangely this sort of these these crank theory. Series have become the. Central tenants of republicanism. Today on outside in a family. That's been on the front lines of climate change politics since the very beginning. I'm same Evans Brown. The sununu are perhaps the most powerful family in the history of New Hampshire politics. They've been governors Senator congressman and even a White House chief of staff today, we're going to track this one political dynasty and with it. Mainstream Republican thought on climate change where it's been where it is now. And maybe where it's going. Clean air and clean water. The wise use of our land to protection of wildlife and natural beauty. These are part of the birthright of every American thing to keep in mind. A huge number of our foundational environmental laws. The creation of the EPA the clean water and clean air acts the toxic substances control act and many more were passed in the nineteen seventies. Under Richard Nixon to guarantee that birthright, we must act and act decisively. It is literally now or never at this point environmental issues had strong bipartisan support and Republicans wanted to be sure they didn't see this ground to the Democrats are I believe in a sound strong environmental policy that protects the health of our people and a wise stewardship of our nation's natural resources. That's enough about me. But less than a decade later under Ronald Reagan, the backlash to the environmental movement through he put administrators in charge of the and department of interior who worked to rollback Nixon era policies and to open up previously protected land, his EPA administrator and Gorsuch who also happens to be supreme court Justice. Neal Gorsuch mother cut the EPA budget by more than twenty percent. And when lawmakers accused her of mismanaging Superfund dollars, she wound up being held in contempt of congress Reagan's interior secretary, James watt increased the acreage of land the federal government leased for coal mining by around five times, the secretary of interior. Jim want is the prime target for those who claim that this administration is out to level the forest and cover the country with black tops someone in the press. The other day said of Jim discovered a cure for cancer. There are those who would attack him for being pro-life. These figures were not popular environmental groups fund raised and rallied against them. And they were pushed out and so in nineteen Eighty-eight when George H W Bush ran for president he positioned himself to regain the trust of the environmental community. We all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected. And in unprecedented ways much remains to be done by this time. Global warming was already a high profile public issue. The first official government summary of climate science was finished in one thousand nine hundred seventy nine two more landed within a week of each other in one thousand nine hundred three and recovered by newspapers and TV news, James Hansen. A nasa. Scientists who wrote one of the first computer models of the greenhouse effect. I testified before congress on the issue back in nineteen eighty two articles about his research had already been front page news and the New York Times, so it should come. As no surprise that. This was an issue that Bush was talking about is. Residential candidate. What's particularly noteworthy to me that I remember was the one liner on climate change where Bush stated that those who are worried about the greenhouse effect are ignoring the White House affect he was making a very clear commitment on the issue. This is Rafe Pomerance and environmental activists who's worked for friends of the earth the world Resources Institute, the State Department and a hodgepodge of other campaigns and organizations in the early eighties. He spent years putting global warming on the national stage by personally arranging meetings between lawmakers and prominent government climate scientists by the time the nineties rolled around Rafe had already seen more than one climate change hype cycle, wax, and wane with no real action. So you're right that there were Republicans who were taking the issue seriously. Now, these were liberal Republicans, but I would say in the hall, the Republican party was much more moderate and open at that stage. So that's the political vibe of the nineteen eighty s. Some Republicans are prioritizing business over conservation. But you still had a Republican running for the Oval Office explicitly claiming he would be quote environmental president, unquote. It's here that we turn our attention to John H sununu at first he was an engineering professor at tufts, but he decided he wanted to put a smarts to work serving his community. He won a seat to the local planning board and later in New Hampshire's four hundred member house of representatives. He lost four elections twice for the state Senate and once for the governor's council and finally the Republican primary to be New Hampshire's U S Senator. But in one thousand nine hundred two he won the governor's office and like other Republicans of this era. He dabbled in environmental protection. In fact, Rafe Pomerance helped with an environmental campaign that caught John H is attention. I was involved with me leaders in New Hampshire and a major campaign around acid rain at the time acid rain looked feels and smells like any other rain, but the water in acid rain carries poisons, like sulfuric acid. An enormous now over one hundred towns at the annual town meeting approved resolutions calling for action on acid rain that campaign organized a conference in Manchester, New Hampshire and all of the democratic candidates vying to be the nominee to challenge Reagan attended. But curiously or importantly, John sununu, the governor came to the conference, and my recollection is is that sununu ultimately was a supporter of of acting on acid rain as governor John H sununu signed the nation's first acid rain legislation requiring a twenty five percent reduction on sulfur dioxide emissions in the state, so an environmental issues, it seemed that John H and President Bush would be on the same page in the nineteen eighty eight presidential primary sununu threw his weight behind Bush's candidacy, the bombastic governors rhetorical force and connections helped Bush win I in New Hampshire and then his party's nomination. We had a great candidate a candidate who got his message out candidate who. Engaged certainly with his nearest rival made it very clear what the difference was. And what I think of the most discriminating voters in the country did a little comparison shopping, but between the two of them and decided George Bush was head and shoulders above them in. Thanks after he won the White House. Bush appointed sununu his chief of staff, it was in that powerful role that John H personally shepherded a Bill through congress that said a gradually declining cap on pollution that causes acid rain and loud polluters to trade the right to emit. It was the model for the type of market based solutions to climate change that we're still debating today. All of this adds up to a situation in which it would seem that when it comes to global warming, George H W Bush who had promised to deal with the issue on the campaign trail, and John H sununu who had proven himself to be a pragmatic dealmaker on acid rain. We'd be simpatico ready to get to work crafting some kind of conservative solution. And in fact, when Bush came to office the table was set for them to do something big less than a year after Bush's inauguration world leaders planned meeting, the first ever international talks on a binding treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The talks would be held in Nordvik in the Netherlands. This would be the ideal place for Bush to hold true to his promises of being an environmental president to lead the world in addressing climate change. But immediately it became clear that John H did not seek global warming is being like acid rain, and this teed up in internal battle within the Bush administration. This became an issue inside the Bush White House. And agencies some people really very enthusiastic about moving forward. Others like governor sununu chief-of-staff with not. What happened was during the crucial week when they were going to make a decision Hanson again shows up James Hansen. Is that NASA scientist the one who's models of the greenhouse effect? I got Congress's attention back in the early eighties. He had continued coming before lawmakers, including now famous bombshell testimony in one thousand nine hundred eighty eight when he declared that global warming was already being observed. Now, he was testifying again. But this time John H sununu intervened and Hansen's testimony was altered by the Bush administration and later as I have learned sununu claims he altered the testimony and diminished its conclusions. The new text said that climate change might be attributable to quote, natural processes, unquote, which Hanson did not believe this was leaked to the press and was splashed all over the front page of the New York Times. The Bush Whitehouse wound up with egg all over their faces. The Hanson alteration had a big political impact on the deliberations inside the Bush White House Rafe says that when you look back at newspapers of the time, you see editorial writers throwing Bush's own words. Back at him, the self-proclaimed environmental president had promises administration with tackle climate change. Instead they'd been caught doing just the opposite secretly trying to downplay the problem it put the White House on the defensive and for a moment in the roiling internal debate within the administration. It seemed like John H sununu had lost just before the historic first ever climate negotiations in the Netherlands began he wrote a telegram to the State Department's negotiators reversing his previous position and telling them to work toward a quote full international consensus here, again is Nathaniel rich, the author of losing earth through the strangest detail of all is that there's a series of talks on the eve of the trip in November at a Tonio. Allendc in front of international investors in the American stock exchange sununu. Although he's not there to speak about climate change necessarily. He's he's just there in his capacity as sort of powerful person within the Bush administration talk about the economy spends most of his talk on on Nordvik and on this idea of a treaty. And in fact, comes out fairly forcefully. It's a very strange thing to read in favor of a global agreement. And he's challenged at one point by an investor in the audience, he says, well, isn't this going to have some major short-term economic costs? And he says, yeah will be some up front costs. But that's nothing compared to the the back. The back end costs. If we don't do anything. And yet despite all of this despite having lost face by altering Hansen's testimony and having been pressured into supporting global greenhouse gas treaty somewhere between that speech to investors and the final negotiation Nordvik sununu flipped again, it meant Americans began the talks with a hard line stance. We won't sign anything that's binding in terms of emissions reductions, and you know, we won't we won't. We won't take part in anything that doesn't consider the economic implications in the short term, basically. And that's the end of the dream of a of a global binding treaty, essentially, that's the that's the closest we've ever come. This set the template for old climate talks that followed every subsequent attempt that of binding greenhouse gas reduction treaty has failed even the much lauded Paris agreement which the US also backed out of was completely non-binding is where we get this. Great, quote, which I think's the Swedish Environment Minister walking out of the room and saying your government is fucking this up. Yeah. Right. And they did. If that binding treaty had been signed in nineteen ninety and if the global community had lived up to it. There could have been fifteen percent less carbon in the atmosphere when the effort to scale back emissions began. There would have been a thirty year headstart on developing solutions and driving down their cost in short. The problem would have been a lot easier to solve sununu today would say, well, we were just being the only honest broker that all these other governments were full of it and had no intention of living up to any kind of treaty binding or not. This was not the end of John H sununu is legacy with regards to global warming. He resigned from the White House in one thousand nine hundred one after he was found to be using military planes for personal trips and taking a White House limousine to a stamp auction. But just a few months later, he got a job as one of the regular hosts of the TV show crossfire from Washington crossfire on the left might Kinsley on the right? John sununu for Jerry Taylor. It was an ideal situation. I left college in nineteen eighty six I didn't graduate. I wanted to get into politics. Jerry was a prominent climate change skeptic at the time that he was a regular guest on crossfire. He used to work for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank that also traffic's minority viewpoints on climate science was one of the nation's leading gunslingers promoting climate skepticism Jerry has since left the church of climate skepticism. And is now the president of the disc. Cannon center, which works to promote conservative solutions to global warming. But back when he was on the other end of spectrum he was a frequent guest on crossfire. This was a political TV show that the New York Times described as quote, a week nightly half hour of aggressively expressed uncomplicated opinions delivered a spirit of absolute certitude in where I am daily sex. If you talk what what phrase? News talk about that. You can talk about adults. They generally have a script where you have a person on the right who argues very strongly for, you know, non action, and then you'd have a person from the environmental community on the left arguing very strongly four action. And producers were there to book, the the the most telegenic and glib and entertaining people they can take those two slots and back in those days. I was nothing if not glib and entertaining. Just like their guests the crossfire hosts, including John H sununu were not expected to be neutral. And this was the nineties it was the period during which oil companies were beginning to launch a media campaign designed at undermining the scientific underpinnings of global warming the media pounced on these new talking points. Suddenly the issue had two sides, and John H sununu was a perfect fit for the role of climate change skeptic. I mean, he had just left the White House chief of staff, so we still important political player in Washington. And so it's kind of a thrilled to get a chance to hobnob with somebody like that especially since John sununu was steeped in climate knowledge and climate skepticism, and he was no casual actor through the nineties think tanks began sprout up with their own self proclaimed experts like Jerry Taylor who you could book for your talk show, whereas previously global warming journalism had. Met writing about dry government reports and National Research Council summaries. Now, it could be covered as talking heads shouting at each other. It was the beginning of a time in which the media shifted from covering climate change as a scientific certainty to something that was up for debate. And as host of crossfire, John H was given a prominent voice in that debate. And so in these conversations oftentimes, I'd be an debate. And in the course of the back and forth. Sununu jump in and throw his own shots that were as capable as those that I was putting on the table. So he was not disengage, and he was not lightly informed. We couldn't find any old footage of sununu talking about global warming on crossfire, but other records show his main arguments in this period were simple. The climate system is complex climate models are too simplistic. And the jury is still out on global warming. These are all talking points that at the time Jerry Taylor was also using but unlike John age as Jerry dug deeper into climate science, he became disillusioned with the arguments of the. Skeptics when I was on these programmes and talking with governors know, what he was putting on the table was no more enlightened than the kind of crackpot ary that I was marketing on knowingly at the time. John H sununu would hold onto his platform on crossfire for six years all the way up through nineteen ninety eight misrepresented in California you. You. Whatsoever with and then he stepped out of the limelight. He began to take an interest in business investing in all kinds of companies. He was on the board of a company drilling for oil in south east Africa and even bought a ten percent stake in an honest to goodness gold mine in other budgen as John H eased into the private sector. Republicans began flirting with a new approach to the climate issue. Just as a new sununu with his own views was rising into political prominence. I thought it was more important to get something done to get a good bipartisan Bill that raise those fuel efficiency standards after a quick break. The next generation takes the reins. There are a lot of finis. Josh. News. Okay. There are a lot of soon news, John H sununu and his it is impossible to. Okay. There are a lot of sununu John H sununu and his wife Nancy had eight children most aren't public figures, or at least they keep a lower profile daughter. Kathy runs a museum, son. Pete works for a media company in Louisville and son James works in the family business, which it's worth noting spans a lot of areas that are kind of adjacent to energy and climate oil mining water infrastructure utilities, there's a lot going on. But some of the news have gone on to use the family name and political connections to their advantage in nineteen Ninety-six during the Clinton administration, John e sununu, that's the son not the father was elected to his first term in the US house of representatives for New Hampshire. If John H sununu was a prime mover in the shift of the Republican party's stance on global warming and early voice for the abandonment of mainstream climate science and favor of the fringes that questioned the very foundation of atmosphere physics. How would his son approach climb? Senator sununu with the energy Bill as you mentioned the energy Bill passed after very close fighting congress minder standing was universally opposed this Bill. No, not at all what I opposed was the tax package. John e served in the US house of representatives for three terms starting in nineteen ninety seven and was the youngest member of congress that whole time he was seen as a rising star a party darling who into two was recruited to a Republican incumbent from the Senate that had been giving the party heartburn. He won. So this is a case where you know, if you actually stand up for doing something that's bipartisan, then some partisan in this case from the far left is gonna come at you and say, oh you while he was in office. His voting record was consistently conservative the times that he broke with the rest of his party were usually because he viewed their proposals as not adhering to Republican principles. He joined a democratic filibuster of the Patriot Act because he believed it infringed on personal liberty. We had to filibuster the Bill we had to stop it in its track. Ax in order to get those changes made, but they were worth fighting for and fight for them again, and he helped block and energy Bill calling. It a grab bag for special interests that was too expensive. But toward the end of his time as Senator thanks in part to the unpopularity of the war in Iraq. Republicans had lost majorities in both the house and Senate and good morning to you. It is a new day in America. The people have spoken a seismic shift in the house of and this environment action on climate change, experienced brief moment of bipartisan support. Hi. I'm Nancy Pelosi. Lifelong democrat and speaker of the house Gingrich lifelong Republican, and I used to be speaker. We don't always the I I do know. But we do agree. Our country must take action to address climate change. We need cleaner forms of energy. And we need them. For years Republican Senator John McCain and democrat Joe Lieberman had been pushing different versions of something called the climate stewardship past these are facts that cannot be refuted by any scientist or any union or any special interest weighing in more heavily on this issue than any issue since we got into campaign finance reform, Mr President, that's the Arctic sea that's the Arctic sea and even look at the red line the boundary of it in nineteen seventy nine look at it. Now, you can believe me or your lying eyes. This was a cap and trade Bill a market based carbon reduction scheme that use the same model that John H sununu that's the father had helped to get through congress in order to deal with acid rain and Senator news case he actually had an interest in climate bills. This is grant Bosse I worked on energy and climate issues for Senator Johnny sununu from two thousand three to two thousand eight toward the end of Giannis time in office. Remember, that's the sun Republicans on their heels, and we're looking at an unfavorable election map in two thousand eight and he had a tough opponent, the state's first ever female governor. So despite being a rising conservative star despite the name recognition, his family enjoys Giannis. Reelection was a real question. So with Democrats holding the gavels there was a lot more momentum to pass some kind of carbon Bill, and when it looked like Khan. Grice was gonna pass something then you wanna jump in? You wanna make that Bill as productive as you can't which is how it came to be that John e sununu son of the man who would go onto co climate science. Unbelievably wrong prominently signed onto a carbon cap and trade Bill a collaboration with Delaware Democrat, Tom Carper, the Carper in new plant there were all sorts of bills that varied in scope in varied in their approach. Some were more top down. Bernie Sanders had a Bill that was pretty much the federal government taking over the energy sector. Cain Lieberman was cap and trade Bill Carper sununu was actually multi pollutant. So it had as much to their quality sulfur nitrogen mercury. So because Senator sununu cared about it. I cared about it. So what did sununu Bill look like it was a so called cap and trade Bill cap as in it's set a cap on economy-wide carbon emissions and try. Raid as in it allowed companies to buy and sell allowances to emit carbon up to that cap. So you've got a financial incentive to free up as much of that those emissions as possible. So you can sell the right to admit to somebody else. This is the same scheme as John H sununu the father designed to deal with acid rain. It's a market driven solution. And grant says John e sununu wanted to carry that idea forward on climate change in congress. But more to the point when you listen to John e sununu at the time, he supported a wide range of initiatives to deal with climate change. Here. He is on New Hampshire public radio in two thousand eight. We got the Bill done. It's been signed into law, and we can in should come back and look at that tax package because there are a lot of pieces in it. That are very good that I support tax credits for for for wind renewable energy for solar for biomass. All of those are provision. I've supported in the past and will. Continue to support. So just to make it. Crystal clear, Senator sununu the energy Bill let some this up. John sununu, the father arguably was the most important single political actor opposing binding global treaty to limit climate change. But nearly twenty years later, John e sununu the sun facing a tough reelection and a political landscape in which the most prominent Republican was championing a domestic carbon reduction Bill is putting forward his own climate Bill and talking up tax credits for renewable energy. And so you saw a number of Republicans offering these ideas, mainstream Republicans, even consider Republicans. This is Jerry Taylor. Again, climate action is coming best that we do it in a rational market based fashion than suffice them scattershot regulatory jihad. So so Senator sununu was not an outlier in the GOP by any means, even though there were conservatives on the GOP oppose these ideas back at that time, you can take this position without risking your political career with the Republican base. But the bipartisan efforts to pass an economy wide cap and trade Bill fizzled when McCain launched a bid for president and abandoned the idea. For a lot of critics of the GOP this all prompts. A question were those mainstream Republicans like John e sununu sincere and more broadly are they ever sincere when it comes to action on climate change. Or is this all posturing, what climate activists call predatory delay? You know, I think with regard to climate. There was a certain amount of avoidance another former staffer for John ISA new Sheridan Brown. There were things that he did that he could tout. Cap and trade Bill towards the end when he was up for a tough reelection. But there didn't seem to be a lot of interest. Unlike grant Bossie who while he says, he's very discouraged by the state of today's politics has stuck with the Republican party Sheridan has become disillusioned with the right and become a loud critic of this new family. He's now on the team that believes John e was never serious about acting on climate. If you were truly believing that climate change existed and was caused by by man manmade emissions of carbon. You wouldn't be at the same time pushing for more drilling in places like the Alaska national wildlife refuge. You know? That's. The two are just not. Not in agreement grant Bosse doesn't buy this. You had a bunch of people Republicans and Democrats that agreed that. Yeah. The the earth is warming human activity almost certainly has something to do with that. And it would probably be a good idea. If we could do something about it and lower our carbon emissions in a way that didn't cripple the economy. Always a great emphasis on on. The fact that you were dealing with an engineer, but he wasn't climatologist. He was a chemical engineer yet. Great weight was placed on. Here's a bright guy. Here's an engineer who can think this through is really funny that you say that because. That feels like a sununu family TRAN. Yeah. I'm an environmental engineer. I studied in worked in the environmental engineering field for ten years. So this is something that I know a lot about combined that with running ski resort where we're completely whether bending. Johnnie lost his campaign for reelection to the Senate in two thousand eight washed out of office and the democratic wave triggered by Barack Obama's election. But New Hampshire would go along without a sin new in the halls of power the earth has been sold it warming since the mid eighteen hundreds this. There's no doubt about that. Is it manmade or not one thing? I do know. Nobody knows for sure. Back in New Hampshire. Another sununu was making moves in the business world. Chris new the second youngest of the eight children was put in charge of a very big family project. The snooze worked with a group of investors to purchase Waterville valley. A scary in the heart of New Hampshire's White Mountains a move, which if you're concerned about climate change might seem like a risky one. New Hampshire's winters are already getting warmer and research says that's bad news for the ski industry, but so far Waterville valley has soldiered on after the sale Chris was made CEO of the resort, but the whole family got into lending their half to promote it. Hey, there's this pizza new with the Waterville valley resort. It's been very gratifying for the wholesome of family. Over. But even as he was managing the ski area which included overseeing a major expansion of the trail network. Adding new lifts Chris new was dipping his toes into politics in two thousand ten he won a seat on the executive council, which is an office very specific to New Hampshire. It's a panel of five that share executive branch power with the governor. What was interesting is that Chris new was always opposed to the solar projects? This is another Chris now congressman Chris Pappas he served with Chris new on the executive council at a time when the five-member body was split three two with Republicans in the majority. You know, we would have a discussion and sometimes get to an agreement on some of the other alternative sources of energy. But whenever it was a solar project. He was leading the charge against it. A main job of the executive council is to approve state contracts public money. That's already been set aside and just needs to be actually spent one kind of contract that often comes before the. Anel is for renewable energy projects hoping to receive grants from the states of renewable energy fund when efforts to pass federal climate legislation faltered and fell apart in Obama's first term climate advocates shifted their attention to state level policies and trying to get local renewable energy projects off the ground. Still today. That's where most of the policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas. Emissions are advancing back. Then I was New Hampshire public radio's environment reporter, and when Chris news on the executive council getting one Republican counselor to flip and vote for them became the only way that a solar project could move forward. You're remembering that very correctly. And oftentimes that's how we tip the balance was just local folks weighing in in support of particular project getting to their counselor or other members of the council and just saying what's the hold up here. You know, we're waiting on these dollars to do something pretty important for our community in his six years on the executive council. Chris Newt never voted to give a state. To a single commercial scale solar array, I take away is that he's skeptical of solar and the promise that it holds more than wind more than you know, any other type of renewable generation. That's been my experience. So from the beginning from his investments in the ski industry to his Taghizadeh toward the solar industry. Chris new hasn't seemed very concerned about global warming. But his rhetoric on the subject has shifted in two thousand sixteen after three terms on the executive council. Chris the new one the governor's office. This is how talked about climate change when he was running in a competitive Republican primary. Nobody knows absolutely one way or the other. Whether it's man-made or not we have to be smart and with myself in the governor's office. We have the opportunity to have a governor that understands these issues now here he is two years later when he was running for re election and had to worry less about turning out the Republican base. Let's be very clear humans have contributed to climate change that that is not a question, contrary to what my opponent may say, I'm the only candidate on this stage that has fought to lower electric rates and here he is live on New Hampshire public radio late last year to quickies on this. So do you now agree with the consensus? Manmade emissions are indeed responsible for the temperature rises. Manmade emissions have a part to play in climate change. Yes. Fact done. Let's move on. Right. What are we go to your original question? What are we going to do about right here? What are we going to do about? And that's where my focus is in terms of what is an appropriate. Not just roll. But position to be in terms of making sure that we're being responsible, we're helping the environment. We're looking at the social impacts, and again, we're just in a tougher place. A lot of other states when it comes to the economic impact already so burdened with these incredibly high electric rates. So what's going on here? If John H sununu was a prime mover publican began to question climate science before that was a safe obvious political bet for publicans to make and of John e sununu was an office at a time where Republicans felt it was necessary to at least put forth some sort of proposal for how to mitigate climate change. What does Chris new represent you might be able to tell it's hard to pin him down. He's not the only Republican who has had to hedge on climate change these days. It's just not a winning issue with their base. Even as the pro business crowds. He's economic opportunity in finding solutions. No matter what Chris new believes personally about global warming. He's working within Republican party at war with itself. It's no longer his older brothers GOP which could get away with taking climate change seriously talking about policy solutions. It's the GOP of twenty nineteen. You can see a very clear dividing line in the party between. Prateep party in postie party. Again, Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen center pre-t party. You could be a Republican even staunch conservative like Senator sununu and argue that we have to do something about climate change. And you were not jeopardizing your career in a primary challenge or anything of the kind nor were you, you know, symbolically speaking putting on a trade over t-shirt by making that argument. Nobody's going to question your conservative bona fees may disagree with you about the issue. But after all atmospheric physics is not ideological and there's room for disagreement about this within the Republican party. But after two thousand ten that changed or excuse me after two thousand eight and that election taking a realistic position on climate became an absolute kiss of death. When asked about climate, Chris new doesn't have much to say he rarely acknowledges the effect that rising seas will have on parts of New Hampshire's small, but economically important coast or that warming winters will have on the just as important ski industry, which his family still has ties to when climate change comes up. He tends to pivot to energy and business. He says New Hampshire's electric rates, which are some of the highest in the country are too high and he's been in favor of bills that lower those rates and has veto bills that he says would raise them in one case vetoed pro-seoul or legislation that passed on a bipartisan vote in a Republican dominated legislature. Now that the Democrats have the majority this same Bill is getting even more support. But sununu is still threatening. Another veto his budget proposal for the next two years. Also, pull money from the state's renewable energy fund, the one that supports those solar projects he used to vote against in other words, even as his language shifts his policy priorities dome. But while Chris new in his role as governor has thus far been cagey on climate change. There is one Morrison new you should know about one who has been much more spoken. So it's pretty easy to sort of Google your name and find headlines that call you a climate denier. So, but it sounds like you're not questioning the idea that carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere. Let's let's talk about what that means a climate denier. Do I is the world warming up? Absolutely. I don't think there's any question in for most part, most of the pieces, I publish one of the first things I acknowledged the world has been warming since mid eighteen hundred this is Chris older brother, Michelson new he's not a climate scientist, and he's never been governor Senator, but he has made himself something of a public figure largely by writing editorials about climate science, by the way, we reached out multiple times via phone messages and emails to all of this new news who've taken a public stance in the climate change debate, John H John e Chris Michael was the only one who agreed to sit down and be interviewed. Remember how Chris has used rhetorical contortions to never quite say exactly what he thinks about climate change. That's what an ambitious elected Republican New Hampshire needs to do to satisfy both the conservative base and the general voting public. Well, the numbers have ticked up slightly in the last year only twenty five to thirty. Percent of conservative Republicans say they're worried about climate change. That's compared to more than fifty percent of Republicans, more broadly and nearly seventy percent of independence. That's a wide Gulf and a real conundrum for purple state Republicans, but Michael can speak his mind his views on global warming are well outside the scientific mainstream. He's sure that observed increases in carbon dioxide are driven by human activities versus natural processes. He isn't sure that CO two increases drive warming versus the other way around and even questions the fundamental principle of the greenhouse effect the degree to which CO two molecules effectively absorbed heat compared to the role of water vapor in the atmosphere. So I think you know, I'm not a climate scientists, obviously, I'm a norm. I yeah. But I do know that I could call you know, after again, very cursory googling any number of dozens of time scientists who would tell me that you're wrong about just about everything that you just said. And I'm curious how you respond to that the fact that it would be very easy to to produce climate scientists who would who would reject a lot of your surgeons. I think what you have to ask is is really what are they basing that rejection on are they basing it on a model form of our climate which most of those rejections will that's their foundation, which I would say that that's models are not science. Here. The connection back to his father's views is quite clear like John H sununu Michael says that the assumptions and simplifications made by climate models make their conclusions on reliable, this is despite the fact that historic climate models have to date done a pretty good job forecasting. Today's measure temperatures, but if John H sununu was personally digging into the assumptions made by climate models and picking them apart and John e and Chris choose their talking points on global warming based on the political calculations of their individual moment. Michelson news views are somewhat different. He hasn't had to create them whole cloth. When you ask him about his influences, he points to a few his name is Joe delay. Oh, he was actually one of the founders you mentioned Richard lindzen. Pobably Yogi toward I think voice Spencer a Judas curry eminent climate scientists. There are voices out there that I think in good voices that talk about the science these figures that Michael sites are a who's who of prominent climate change skeptics, they are scientists and some like Judith curry are actually cited by the United Nations body that evaluates climate science the IPC. They're still mainstream though, their studies are the outliers forecasting much less dire climate change than the rest of the scientific community when you read climate sceptic, blogs, these are some of the maybe two dozen names that come up over and over again in attempts to discredit the IPC their names that are very familiar to Jerry Taylor. The former gunslinger we've been hearing from throughout this story in two thousand sixteen Jerry was invited to New Hampshire to give a presentation at the university of New Hampshire while he was in town. He was. Asked to brief the president of a local right wing think tank on climate change over coffee and we arrive for coffee and to our surprise. There was Michelson. Anyway, we didn't expect to see Michael there. We didn't always going to be part of the meeting, but that's fine. He's an aboard guy. The president of the institute had asked Michael sununu to come along. In Jerry's words as a kind of climate council Yari. And so we had some coffee and started this conversation. It became clear that Michelson new had downloaded just about everything out of the right wing thing- tank world or that showed up on Fox News. The Wall Street Journal or Breitbart or Rush Limbaugh, and he was prime for bear. Just like his father was back in the day. I don't believe that Michelson new had any doubts that the the case for climate action was a as he would put it kind of a cooked up a bunch of nonsense that can't withstand even a casual examination and he was going to demonstrate that to me. So he was off to the races. And I finally stopped him. I said, Michael, I don't know if you know this, but I wrote all that crap twenty years ago. I mean, I I know what you're I know. I know this story, I know this evidence. I know these studies you're offering I know these arguments intimately I was paid to promote them twenty four seven. Let me tell you. What's wrong with them? Or at least why it was that I began to doubt them, but he would have none of it. Michael says he does consulting work for telecommunications. Clients and says he's worked on water development projects in the Caribbean and southeast Africa and helps manage Waterville valley the ski area his family owns and runs. He was briefly involved with an aborted plan to develop a coal fired fertilizer plant in the mid west as he says, he's not a climate scientist. But when many prominent New Hampshire Republicans have questions about climate science. It's Michelson new not Jerry Taylor who they turn to he presents on climate some regularly at the New Hampshire business and industry association's annual conference. Do you think that since you've taken on his mantle of talking about this that your views have gotten traction here in New Hampshire? No. I don't. And it's unfortunate. Because as I said, I think is there is a overwhelming public perception that sometimes I feel like syfy rolling boulder up the hill. So even even with things like getting invited to the BI to present to the BI, a, which is you know, it's a form of fairly powerful. Folks. I mean, it's not there's lawmakers in that room. You don't think you don't think your message just landed? I'm not sure I mean, it's it's it's always hard to tell. But I I mean to some extent, I guess, I'll know the message has landed when I see somebody here in New Hampshire get up and say, you know, I was on the other side of the climate debate. But these questions really that he raises actually has some village validity to change minds. I want them to ask the questions. But even though he's invited to address lawmakers and business leaders, even though he advocates for and against energy bills at the New Hampshire state house leveraging his last name, even though he's in visor to an energy group that has close ties to the governor. Even though the governor is his brother Michael doesn't believe his opinions on climate change matter more than any other Joe citizens. So you don't feel for instance, that I mean, do you get FaceTime with your brother? He's known listening to you know, none at all. I'm sure there are a lot of listeners in the general public out there who think that, you know, the sununu family gets together at dinner every week and figures out what we're doing all ten of you know, it is not and and I I avoid. Talking to my brother about these policy issues one for his sake because I don't think he really cares to hear me complain about what he's doing. Or you need certainly doesn't need me to support. I think the good things that he's doing it. It certainly for his, but for my sake as well. I think the issue is not is not, you know, my family. The truth is Michael sue might not need any special access in order for his ideas. Hold sway. He might just need to be. They're putting out these ideas. So that other Republicans can take them in run with them. Certainly he doesn't have to try hard convince a lot of Republicans. They don't need to put forth any sort of plan for taking action on climate change one thing to climate skeptics in denial of done. Very well is they have made skepticism and denial ISM about climate science, a core part of Republican identity, and that means a lot more to people than being quote right about an issue times have changed. But this noon family is still very much tapped into climate change and energy, politics and New Hampshire Michael testifies against carbon taxes at the state house. Chris veto any law that increases electric rates and their father, John H the former crossfire knife fighter has been known to poke his head back into the issue too. Question. That's the elder sununu late last year in a ritzy Bank would hall with views of New Hampshire's Atlantic coast. He was at a conference that sparked controversy locally because it had a lot of speakers who've become synonymous with climate change denial and not so many on the other end of the spectrum. But the speakers who are skeptical that we should be worried about climate change had a fan in John H sununu. So where does this leave us? Of course, it's anyone's guess if you'd asked Rafe Pomerance, the climate activists who watched John sununu torpedo the first climate talks Nordvik in nineteen Eighty-nine. He wouldn't have guessed that we'd see the questioning of climate science that we've weathered over the past three decades. These e part was a science you put more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the earth warms up, very straightforward. Who can who can who can argue with this. I was totally wrong. Right. So I thought the science was straightforward. The stakes were enormous that that there would be a response. I didn't predict divisions or think that the divisions. We now experience what happen? But if anyone's got an idea, it's going to be someone who spends a lot of time talking to Republicans someone like Jerry Taylor of Niskanen center, right now, most elected, I would say most elected Republicans are not the sort of blind denials that seem to inhabit the White House. Now that doesn't mean that they're ready to Embiid Asli act, but their minds are open one of the the only common denominator to the Republican party from the time of Lincoln to the time of Trump. And there is only one common denominator is that. It's always been the party business always and as climate change becomes more and more of a problem. It's going to cause more and more losses to businesses to ski resorts to fishermen to the egg industry. To various different other resource industries at to the recreation industry to to a number of them. What do you think the chances are that they will just quietly accept those losses versus perhaps launching legal action against the fossil fuel contra companies that manufactured the products that gave them these losses. We're already starting to see those kind of losses. We seem the from the municipal level. But we we just recently saw them from the fishing industry in the Pacific northwest. And we're gonna start seeing them more frequently I think from the ski industry and others. So that's one thing that could change the way Republicans think about climate change. What if they're favored industrial allies are the ones we're increasingly animated about recovering the damages that are being done to them. It does feel like level warming is having something of political moment right now, we have to deal with this. It's a top issue for Democrats on the twenty twenty presidential campaign trail or planet is in peril. Moderate Republican governors like Larry HOGAN, Charlie Baker or acting on climate at the state level. We have tougher tougher clean air standards. Progressive Democrats have put their weight behind at least the framework of the green new deal. Challenges are one of the biggest existential response group of Republicans, including Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham and Lamar Alexander have counterproposal. They're calling a new Manhattan project for clean up our air, raise family, incomes this fall after a year of fires floods and devastating hurricanes. All potentially linked to the warming trend opinion polls registered the first real uptaking concern about climate change for the first time in more than a decade. But we've been in these moments before and if history is any judge there will be sununu in the room who decide where we go from here. Talk. Forty seven. This episode about side in was produced by me Sam Brown, any row peak in Taylor Quimby with helping Daniel Barrick for prince L, Josh Rogers, Nick kep Ajay, Jimmy, Gutierrez and just in paradise. Erica Janik is our executive producer. Maureen McMurray is director of dynastic succession, planning if you're interested in hearing more about this story, we're trying something new you can find full unedited versions of several. The interviews. We used to put the story together including the one with Jerry Taylor Michelson. New shared a Brown and grant Bosse on our website outside in radio dot org. If you wanna weigh in find us on Facebook search for outside slush in after Jordan are moderated group or just shouted us on Twitter, we're at outside in radio. I'm at a row peek and Sam is at Sam be an HP music in this episode came from blue dot sessions. Our theme music is by brake master cylinder outside in the production of New Hampshire public radio.

Coming up next