As California grapples with water-use restrictions, worsened smog and idled farmland following the driest year on record, Neel Kashkari says climate change isn’t to blame.
While the former U.S. Treasury official running for the Republican nomination in California’s gubernatorial race calls himself a student of science who believes climate change is real, Kashkari, 40, said in an interview that he wants to avoid a rush to judgment.
“The way politicians use short-term weather events to advocate their climate agenda, I think, actually does more harm to the overall issue than good,” he said at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “California has had droughts periodically for all of recorded history so the idea, ‘Well, we have this drought, oh therefore it must be climate change,’ you end up conflating two different issues.”
Asked to clarify whether he sees California’s current drought as at all related to climate change, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive stood firm: “No, not at all,” he said. “I’d say we have a drought, and we have a separate long term issue of climate change. And they need to be addressed appropriately.”
Kashkari’s comments place him in the center of an ongoing debate about extreme weather events such as the U.S. West’s dry conditions and whether human-caused climate change is increasing their frequency. John P. Holdren, a science adviser to President Barack Obama, for instance, contends there’s a link. Roger Pielke Jr., a longtime climate researcher at the University of Colorado, argues otherwise.
Kashkari is seeking to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, 75, a Democrat who’s the longest-serving governor of the most populous state. In order to prepare for future droughts, he advocates scrapping Brown’s $68 billion high-speed rail project in favor of building more water storage.
The latest public poll shows Kashkari, who managed Treasury’s $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, with 2 percent support, trailing Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party-backed Republican, at 10 percent and Brown at 47 percent. Just over two months remain before June’s so- called open primary, where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to the November general election.
Kashkari, on a trip to New York and Washington for fundraising, media appearances and meetings with fellow Republicans, returns to California tomorrow.