Despite White House Warnings, Florida Legislators Skeptical About Climate Change

May 27, 2014
Originally published on August 14, 2014 9:47 pm

The White House is painting a dire picture for every region in the nation, especially South Florida, if action isn't taken to combat climate change. Some states' Republican lawmakers still are not buying it.

Things won't be pretty in South Florida if the latest White House climate assessment is right. You can expect intensified storms and a sea that will keep steadily encroaching on your way of life slowly nipping away at that shore your toes used to trust.

Julian Boggs, global warming program director at Environment America, says the White House report paints a full picture of a nation rapidly changing due to rising temperatures. He says "these are things that folks are experiencing every, every day. And the national climate assessment is also unique not only in the specificity of the impacts but it's unique in that it shows region by region how folks are experiencing this."

But those predictions are being brushed aside by some Florida policymakers in the nation's capital. The state’s junior senator, Marco Rubio, drew an uproar in the media for claiming to be skeptical that climate change is man-made. The rumored GOP presidential contender then walked that statement back at the National Press Club.

Said Sen. Rubio: “Of course the climate is changing because the climate is always changing, and that’s a measure that you can see. The issue is not whether the climate is changing, because it’s always changing. The issue before us is whether there are any legislative proposals that can do anything about it.”

The senator supports local efforts to mitigate sea level rise, but he says he opposes national efforts to cool the climate.

“What I disagree with is the notion that if we pass cap and trade, for example, this will stop this from happening when in fact half of the new emissions are coming from developing nations," Sen. Rubio added. "And half of that is coming from China that isn’t going to follow whatever laws we pass.”

Boggs said Rubio ought to open his eyes.

"Well, I mean, Senator Rubio, Florida is really ground zero when it comes to climate impacts," he says. "Sea level rise is impacting how municipalities deal with all sorts of infrastructure."

Sen. Rubio isn't alone with his climate skepticism. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) says the White House report isn't convincing.

"We've heard these kinds of 'the sky is falling' stories," she said. "And so I think people remain fairly skeptical about the causes of global warming, and the solutions are pretty costly. And I think the administration should spend its time and money on very urgent pressing things that impact everyday Americans in the here and now."

Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) says scientific arguments just won't work on some lawmakers. "They can just put their head in the sand but that sand won't be there for long," she says.

The White House has given up on trying to convince lawmakers like Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen that climate change is real, happening and bringing devastating consequences with it, like sea level rise. That's why the Obama administration is moving forward with a new EPA rule that will drastically curb carbon emissions from new power plants.

"Well, the answer is to stop the heating up of the planet," said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). While many Republicans accuse the White House of usurping Congress with its new EPA rule, Nelson says there's really no other option.

"But if we don't do anything, then we've got to face the consequences: salt water intrusion into our drinking water," he says. "You've got to re-plumb all of your flood control because it flows by gravity; and if sea level is another foot higher it can't flow out to the sea because gravity won't take it."

In the coming weeks the EPA will unleash its new carbon rule, and that's expected to raise the temperature on Capitol Hill -- at least when it comes to some Florida Republicans.

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