By Zack Colman - 07/24/13 09:12 PM EDT
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) said Wednesday that his claim in a Senate campaign ad that “millions will die” from climate change is not an overstatement.
Holt defended his comment, which aired in an online advertisement in which he advocated for a carbon tax, in a meeting with The Star-Ledger’s editorial board.
“I think it’s no exaggeration at all to say that millions will die. And in fact there’s pretty good evidence that millions already have died because of climate change,” he told the Newark, N.J.-based newspaper.
Holt is seeking the Democratic nomination to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
He’s a long shot to win the Aug. 13 Democratic primary. The field also includes Newark Mayor Cory Booker — by far the favorite — and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).
To flesh out his claim about the potential toll on human life, Holt told The Star-Ledger that climate change is about more than extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged New Jersey last fall.
From The Star-Ledger:
“It’s not hysteria. It’s documented,” Holt said, saying that global warming’s effects are felt in more than just natural disasters.
“If you talk to the World Health Organization and International Health Groups, they’ll tell you because of diseases – it’s not just from storm damage, it’s other aspects of climate change affecting our oceans,” he said.
The World Health Organization estimates that climate change causes 150,000 deaths per year, with increased rates of "particularly infectious diseases and malnutrition in developing regions" playing a role in that figure.
Holt, a physicist, is one of the more outspoken House voices on climate change.
As a senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, he has often warned about the risks rising sea levels and intensifying storms associated with climate change pose to coastal communities.
In the advertisement, Holt said “the answer” for combating climate change is a carbon tax, adding that he would “fight for it.”
Environmental and some conservative economists have floated the idea of a carbon tax as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions while also generating enough revenue to cut personal tax rates.
But the carbon tax is an unlikely policy option in both the House and the Senate amid opposition from Republicans and centrist Democrats.