The realities of climate change will force American deniers – or “crazies” – to accept reality, Michael Bloomberg told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“Even the right-wing crazies no longer say climate change isn’t real,” the billionaire former mayor of New York City declared. “They say it’s natural, it’s not business, not man-made.”
“Why do they say that? Because in every one of their towns and villages and states and counties, they now have floods where they had droughts, they have droughts where they had floods, they have storms, they have tornadoes.”
Bloomberg has made fighting climate change one of his singular initiatives since he left office in 2013 after more than a decade leading the city.
“You’ve got a guy like Ted Cruz, who I think (prominent American lawyer Alan) Dershowitz said was the smartest law student he ever had, and he says some of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.”
“The only explanation – the only explanation – is he doesn’t believe it, he’s just saying it. Ted Cruz is a smart guy and you can’t say what he says in an intelligent way.”
A team of mayors
Bloomberg has teamed up with another superstar mayor, Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor of Paris. Amanpour spoke with both of them in the French capital on November 13, just hours before terrorists struck several sites across the city, killing 130 people.
Next week, that city will hold a landmark climate conference, “COP21.” It is the 21st such gathering of world leaders – and hopes are high for this meeting, perhaps more than any other, that world leaders will be able to reach a consensus on some sort of binding agreement to curb emissions.
“Those who deny the importance of climate change and disruption of climate are not aware of the problem that this is going to generate and are going to miss a few opportunities,” Hidalgo told Amanpour, speaking in French.
“This is a new world that is opening up for us with a lot of creativeness, a lot of opportunities to bring new services, to bring new products that are respectful of the planet.”
“So those who are looking at the world with the glasses of the 21st century will not be qualified for the great challenges of the (current) century.”
The economic argument
Environmental literacy, Bloomberg said, is a key point of discussion in job interviews at his many companies.
“There are very few wealthy Americans who are saying climate change is a commie plot,” he said. “No business executive in America could survive if they had a risk and they didn’t do something about it.”
“So if you have a building that is down low near the water’s edge, you don’t sit there and argue about whether the oceans will rise or the storms get more furious. You move your building, you build a berm, you buy an insurance policy – you do something or you will be out of work at the next board meeting.”
“There are very few exceptions where you couldn’t make a very good case that being pro-environment is good for the bottom line.”
That argument does not, often, get as much traction in developing countries, where leaders say that, like the now-developed countries before them, it is now their turn to use dirty fossil fuels to power economic growth.
“India’s an exception, because India is a phenomenally poor country,” Bloomberg said. “They have a dependence on coal which is very difficult to see how quickly they can get away from it.”
“China, on the other hand, can get away from it. And the Chinese government is responding to this new middle-class that they created, who say, ‘I want clean air, I want clean water, I want streets that work, I want bathrooms in my apartment, not down the hall.’”
It is an example, he said, of government responding to its people.
“China will be the next pro-environmental country, I think, in leading the way.”
“Every one of their big cities has the same thing – you can’t see across the street, you have to wear a mask, and they’re going to have to do something about it. I’m not worried about them.”
Likewise, Hidalgo said, initiatives by Western cities – like Paris – can be models for developing nations.
The UN estimates that cities are responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions.
“We use solar energy, geothermal energy, the water from our sewage system, from the sewage network to heat buildings like the city hall of Paris, for instance.”
“We can exchange good practices, but also speed up the use of a certain number of new energies and technologies, and help the transfer of these technologies so that these countries would not have to catch up with their delay in their development.”
“As Churchill once said about America…”
While the American Congress stymies President Obama’s attempts to institute major emissions reform, the rest of the country, Bloomberg said, is moving forward.
“In America, it is the private sector and the cities that are doing things. Our state governments and our federal government, no.”
“Keep in mind, America has just reduced its greenhouse gasses by close to 20% over the last few years. And the government did nothing.”
“The private sector either put solar panels on their roofs, or started burning natural gas rather than heavy fuel oil or coal; we’ve closed 200 of our 500 coal-fired power plants; the public has started to paint the roofs of their houses white; they’ve insisted on buying more fuel-efficient cars. So America – in spite of a government that’s doing zero – is doing something.”
“As (Winston) Churchill once said about America, ‘You can always depend on them to do the right thing after exhausting all other possibilities.’ So I think we will eventually do the right thing on climate change as well.”
Whether on climate change or gun control, Bloomberg puts his money where his mouth is. That, and his ability to cross the political aisle – he was first elected New York mayor as a Republican – have left many Americans desperately awaiting a Bloomberg run for the presidency.
“Common sense” says Donald Trump will not be president, Bloomberg said.
“If I thought I could win, I would (run),” he said. “But you can’t win. Thank you – I’ll be very happy running my company and my foundation.”