Former Vice President Mike Pence will return to New Hampshire on Dec. 8 to speak at a fundraiser for Republican New Hampshire state Senate candidates, and to an audience that will likely include people connected to electric utilities and fossil fuel interests. Will Mike Pence speak out on climate change and clean energy during his visit to New Hampshire? Not likely. Mike Pence continues to deny the scientific reality of climate change, opposes clean energy solutions, and supports the isolationist position of leaving the Paris climate agreement—something he and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has a lot in common with Mike Pence. Both also remain out of step with the majority of people in Indiana, New Hampshire, and the rest of the country who understand global warming is caused primarily by human activities and will harm current and future generations.
Pence and Gov. Sununu have blocked the necessary actions to face the challenges of climate change. While serving as governor of Indiana, Pence threw out an energy efficiency program even though the Indiana Public Utility Commission (PUC) stated the program would create more than 18,600 jobs. Chris Sununu was an executive councilor and voted against every solar project. Likewise, Gov. Sununu vetoed expansion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio standard and his PUC appointees cut energy-efficiency funding off at the knees, forcing utilities to cancel programs that would’ve benefited New Hampshire residents and businesses.
To date, neither man has acknowledged the scientific consensus on both human-induced climate change and the extent to which the burning of fossil fuels is responsible. In 2000, Pence called climate change a myth and a decade later falsely stated the “science is very mixed on the subject.” Now Pence says the “climate is changing” still without acknowledging the overwhelming consensus that emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is the main culprit. In 2016, Gov. Sununu denied human-induced climate change and a year later continued to cast doubt on the scientific consensus.
Pence and Gov. Sununu promotes the false narrative that climate change is bad for business. Without providing supporting data, Pence claims that the Paris climate accord places a heavy burden on businesses. Similarly, Gov. Sununu stood by President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement and remains the only New England governor who has not joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, which has 24 governor signatories that commit to reducing heat-trapping emission. However hundreds of businesses — including General Mills, Levi’s and Salesforce — have already committed to taking actions to reduce their emissions to keep alive the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.
Despite being able to hear from experts, neither Gov. Sununu will admit the serious dangers climate change poses to our natural resources, economy, and public health. It is the definition of an existential danger. Twenty-two Hoosier scientists asked in a letter to Pence while serving as Indiana governor to “actively engage in planning and action required to mitigate and adapt to that change.” Since then, Pence called for more oil, more coal and more gas extraction. In New Hampshire, over 550 healthcare professionals and 18 healthcare associations (and growing) are calling on Gov. Sununu is urged to lead a swift transition away from oil, coal, and natural gas and towards solar, wind.
Without leadership on climate, there is no progress and no forward momentum. Indiana is one of the few states without a climate action plan. New Hampshire’s current climate plan is more than 10 years old, is not enforceable and none of its recommendations can be found in Governor Sununu’s 2018 10-year energy strategy.
Both Indiana and New Hampshire have experienced an increase in temperatures over the past century. People across the globe, including those in both states, are at increased risk of extreme weather events like flooding and heat. These extreme weather events could cause damage to crops, infrastructure, lives, and homes. Despite repeated calls from scientists around the world and in the U.S. for humanity to reduce climate change’s effects within the next ten years, neither Mike Pence or Gov. Sununu did not act. We are running out of time, and we need current politicians and those running for office to do what the people want and need — address the climate crisis with the urgency it demands.
Cameron Wake, PhD, Durham She is a researcher, professor, and climatologist.
Roger Stephenson, M.S. Roger Stephenson, M.S. of Stratham is an active volunteer for land trusts and he works at the Union of Concerned Scientists where he connects people to science to promote good government policies as well as better corporate practices.