Billionaires' newest playgrounds?
(Credit: Mike Bloomberg/flickr)

Billionaires' newest playgrounds?

Both Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg—prodigious funders of climate action causes and campaigns—are diverting millions into quixotic presidential runs.

According to U.S. News, the U.S. has 607 billionaires. The fact that four of them saw fit to run for president this year is more than a little out of proportion to the population as a whole.


These four came into their fortunes by different paths. Tom Steyer was a wildly successful self-made hedge fund trader. Michael Bloomberg, who threw in last month, got rich on securities, software, and media. President Trump figured out how to monetize bloviation to multiply his father's nest-egg.

And Howard Schmidt, who cancelled his nascent bid in September, is the world's preeminent pusher of pricey, pretentious caffeine. I'll bet you'd already forgotten about him, hadn't you? For the purposes of this column, let's forget about him some more.

Forget about Gstaad, South Beach, and the Seychelles. The new billionaires' playgrounds are apparently Iowa and New Hampshire.

I wrote in July about the hobbyist nature of Steyer's campaign. Add the late-coming former New York Mayor Bloomberg to my regrets, though he at least has some experience leading an unwieldy government—for three terms, no less, after persuading the NewYork City Council to scrap the two-term limit in 2008. Mayor Bloomberg's 12 years followed the last eight years of the compos mentis portion of Rudy Giuliani's career.

Both Steyer and Bloomberg—prodigious funders of climate action causes and campaigns—are instead diverting their millions into quixotic presidential runs that are both vain and in vain.

In an America paralyzed by inaction and denial on climate change, this is a tragedy.

This week, the trade publication AdAgegave the horserace treatment to Bloomberg's and Steyer's drunken ad sprees: In just a few weeks, Bloomberg has eclipsed Steyer's $86 million drop by approaching $100 million, primarily on TV, Facebook, and website ads. Nearly 200 mil. So far.

Tom Steyer (Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

This is money, spent by two men with impressive climate credentials, that could turn the Senate away from denial, save the House from reverting to it, and turn back the quietly devastating rightward turn in governorships and statehouses.

Moreover, I wouldn't mind seeing Secretary of State Bloomberg and Treasury Secretary Steyer in 2021.

Don't get me wrong: I hold no brief for the Democrats. They can turn a sure thing into a fiasco like nobody's business. In my lifetime, I've seen them bungle Iran-Contra, Bush v Gore, and Clinton v Trump. They can lose Congressional elections by four-to-one margins in once reliable Democratic districts, and they can lose them to cartoon characters like Louie Gohmert.

The Dems need all the help they can get, and as dreadful as campaign financing can be, I'd rather see two of the pro-climate firehoses pour money on others rather than turning the hoses on themselves.

Another galling fact in all this: Steyer and Bloomberg aren't just squandering a climate war chest, they're handing it directly to the same media that's failed so miserably to cover the climate crisis. AdAge reports that Steyer alone has spent $14 million on Facebook, much to the delight of fellow billionaire Mark Zuckerberg. The money they've spent could re-make Appalachia's economy and give the region's voters a chance to simultaneously de-carbonize and de-McConnellize.

Oh, and one final point for the billionaires still skiing the slopes of Gstaad and laying out on the sands of South Beach and the Seychelles: Climate change is about to turn all three into soggy ghost towns.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Republican House Science chair seeks to make NOAA an independent agency

NOAA plays an outsized role in American daily life, since it is responsible for forecasting the weather and issuing warnings for severe storms. The agency also regulates fisheries and runs some of the top climate change research centers in the world.

Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

South Sudan’s four-year flood could spell ‘a permanent change’ in climate

Unrelenting rain is keeping rivers and wetlands at record highs throughout the year, with devastating consequences.

Climate change could turn Seattle into an umbrella city

Seattle has long been known for its umbrella-shunning ways, but more extreme weather and heavier rain may put that ethos to the test.

Cold water fish can adapt to climate change by breeding with warm water relatives

New research suggests an evolutionary shortcut to adaptation: breed with closely related species that can better stand the heat.

How water finally became a climate change priority

A collaboration helped convince policy makers at COP27 to finally prioritize water as a critical resource affected by climate change. It was a win long in the making

Hertz partnership in Denver provides data on EV charging needs

A new partnership with Hertz will allow residents to try electric vehicles before they buy. It will also provide Denver with data on where chargers are needed.

‘A colossal giveaway’: A tax break for big polluters is also starving public schools in Texas

In less than a decade, the northern coastline of Corpus Christi Bay, in San Patricio County, Texas, has been developed from a greenspace of wetlands and dunes into a miles-long corridor of petrochemical and industrial facilities.

From our Newsroom
oil and gas wells pollution

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich: A journey through science and politics

In his new book, the famous scientist reflects on an unparalleled career on our fascinating, ever-changing planet.

oil and gas california environmental justice

Will California’s new oil and gas laws protect people from toxic pollution?

California will soon have the largest oil drilling setbacks in the U.S. Experts say other states can learn from this move.

popular stories 2022

Our 5 most popular reads from 2022

A corpse, woodworking dangers, plastic titans ... revisit the stories that stuck with our readers this past year.

Pittsburgh environmental

What I learned reporting on environmental health in Pittsburgh in 2022

For a lot of people, 2022 felt like the first “normal” year since 2020. It didn’t for me.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.