Advocates Virtually Meet With Jacksonville Rep. John Rutherford To Talk Climate Change

Jun 29, 2020

Local advocates recently met with Jacksonville Representative John Rutherford to talk about climate change and a national carbon pricing bill.

Every June all the chapters of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonprofit and nonpartisan advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change, send volunteers to Washington, D.C., to meet with their representatives and senators to talk about climate change and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763), which would put a price on carbon to be paid by the oil and gas industry. The government would collect that money and then redistribute it equally to all American citizens as a monthly rebate.

That annual event didn’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the organization hosted a virtual event on June 13, which was attended by 4,685 climate advocates.

“I enjoyed hearing a variety of perspectives, particularly the conservative point of view, on how to address climate change,” said Alex Brown, an elementary school teacher who lives in Oceanway and one of three local CCL volunteers who participated in the event, called “A Community Stronger than COVID.” 

Related: JEA Approves Plan To Close Unit At Plant Scherer, 1 Of Nation’s Biggest Carbon Emitters

After a day of education and training and a few seminars on June 14, Adam Rosenblatt, an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of North Florida and the co-founder/leader of Jacksonville’s CCL chapter, and Larry Zwain, a member of the Jacksonville chapter, virtually met with Republican Congressman John Rutherford on June 17 to talk about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

Related: This Jacksonville Scientist Is On A Mission To Change Public Policy

Rep. Rutherford’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by this story’s deadline, and due to CCL’s strict confidentiality policy, Rosenblatt could not share details of the conversation, beyond the fact that it focused on Rutherford’s views on climate change and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.

But Rosenblatt did say he saw the meeting as a very positive development.

“It was actually the first time that we've had a face to face meeting with Rutherford himself. We've had two meetings in the past, I think in 2018 and 2019, where we met with some members of his staff, but we hadn't met with him face to face,” he said. “We only scheduled like a 15 minute conversation with him because, obviously, he’s a very busy person. But I think we ended up talking for about 40 minutes.”

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act already has 81 House members who have signed on, including Jacksonville’s other representative, Democrat Al Lawson.

Related: Residents Encouraged To Join Jacksonville’s New Resiliency Subcommittees

“We hope to see Rep. Rutherford cosponsor the Energy Innovation Act. This policy will greatly benefit our economy, our health, and our futures here in Jacksonville,” said Zwain.

The CCL puts together statewide teams to meet with senators. Meetings were held with Marco Rubio and Rick Scott this year, but members of the Jacksonville chapter were not involved.

Recent polling from Yale and George Mason Universities finds that Americans’ understanding of and concern for climate change remain at record highs, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Similar surveys out of Florida Atlantic University finds even higher rates of understanding and concern among Floridians.

"Here in Jacksonville, we're still very concerned about climate change, even during this pandemic and other issues our country is grappling with," Rosenblatt said. "We're ready for Congress to take action, and we're working to make that happen."

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.