Carly Fiorina Muddies the Climate Waters for Political Gain

Carly Fiorina Muddies the Climate Waters for Political Gain

I've long believed that we'd be better off if more successful business people entered politics. They tend to be pragmatic and action-oriented, they're proven leaders, they understand economics and they're not beholden to special interests. Look, for example, at the job Michael Bloomberg has done in New York City.

And then there's Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard, who is running for the U.S. Senate in California, hoping to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Barbara Boxer. She is giving business a bad name, notably with a new TV ad about climate which is unfair, stupid and destructive.

In the ad (below), a shrunken image of Boxer says:

One of the very important national security issues we face, frankly, is climate change.

To which Fiorina replies, dismissively:

Terrorism kills -- and Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather.... I'll keep you safe.

My goodness. I'm no fan of Boxer (who comes across as perhaps the least appealing character in Eric Pooley's excellent new book, The Climate War), but she is well within the mainstream in seeing climate change as a national security issue. Others who link climate to national security include so-called green hawks like James Woolsey, the former head of the CIA, and the military and intelligence analysts at the National Defense University, as the New York Time reported last year.

Last fall, the CIA opened a Center on Climate Change and National Security to study

the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources.

So Boxer's right and Fiorina's wrong: climate change is, in fact, a national security issue. Indeed, it's a pretty good bet that climate change will kill more people that terrorists in the next decade or two.

Fiorina's derisive comment that Boxer is "worried about the weather" is even more objectionable because Fiorina surely knows the difference between weather and climate. Not long ago, she talked up climate change as a serious issue. In 2008, as an advisor to John McCain during his presidential campaign, Fiorina told Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones:

I think it's important that when we think about taking on some of the great challenges now as opposed to leaving them to future generations, we have to talk not only about Social Security and medical care, but also about leaving our planet cleaner for the next generation than we found it.

I suspect that's what she really thinks, but Fiorina is now running hard for the Republican nomination as a conservative and so she appears willing to say anything to get elected -- even if it muddies the debate about climate.

Maybe the key difference between Mike Bloomberg and Carly Fiorina is their respective track records. He built a great company from scratch and made a fortune doing it. She worked her way into the job of CEO of Hewlett Packard, did a lousy job running the company (but a good job promoting herself) before she was sent off by the board with an undeserved $21 million severance package. She's now using some of her wealth (which rightfully belongs to HP shareholders) to finance ads like this one.

It really is shameful. Senior Writer Marc Gunther is a longtime journalist and speaker whose focus is business and sustainability. Marc maintains a blog at You can follow him on Twitter @marcGunther.