U.S. Senate candidate Rush Holt has caused some controversy with his recent campaign ad that claims climate change will lead to the death of millions of people. He stands by that assertion, pointing to research by international organizations. The congressman also told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg would be pleased if he succeeded him in the Senate and discussed the issue of government surveillance.
Holt organized and held a “Geek Out” town hall meeting yesterday, which got a lot of praise from columnist Glenn Greenwald, who has written about the Edward Snowden cyber leaks case and other issues for The Guardian. “Glenn Greenwald has a long and distinguished career and I’ve followed his career for years and evidently he has followed mine. Unsolicited he gave me a very warm endorsement,” Holt said.
The congressman said Greenwald pointed out his comments several years ago about domestic spying. “I talked about the excesses we were going to see and why we shouldn’t have the Patriot Act, why we shouldn’t have the FISA Amendments Act. And indeed, I think I was right,” Holt said. “That what we see with the government spying on Americans — and there’s no other term for it — is not just an invasion of privacy, it is changing the very relationship between the government and the citizens.”
While Holt said Snowden broke the law, which he can’t condone, he welcomes the debate that has come out of the leaks. “The president came to the Congress to talk to people about what’s there. The head of the NSA is now finally coming to the Congress to level. They’ve released some documents that should’ve been released years ago,” he said. “The government shouldn’t be making laws in secret. And so it is finally coming out.”
According to Holt, surveillance programs have dramatically changed how government views its people. “The government now through this activity regards citizens as suspects first and citizens second. That’s a big change. That runs, I think, contrary to the reason this country was founded,” he said.
In the race for Senate, Lautenberg’s family has publicly endorsed Congressman Frank Pallone. “I felt very close to Frank Lautenberg and I know he felt close to me. And I have no doubt that he would be pleased at the thought of my succeeding him,” Holt said. “The family decided to endorse Frank Pallone because they calculated he had a better chance of winning. And I just think they miscalculated.”
Holt stands by his statements that unchecked climate change will result in the unnecessary deaths of millions. “There are a number of other international organizations that have looked at the effects of climate change. They will tell you that somewhere between 100,000 and 400,000 people are dying early, unnecessarily each year already because of climate change,” he said.
Holt explained that the effects of climate change aren’t limited to severe weather, flooding and agricultural disruption, which results in malnutrition and starvation. “It’s also and especially the changes in diseases. You’re finding malaria where you never found it before much more rampant, virulent,” he said. “So climate change is indeed deadly and we should be doing something about it. We certainly shouldn’t be denying it. And we shouldn’t be sticking our heads in the sand.”