Many Democrats in Washington D.C. have come out in support of the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution that lays out a sweeping plan for addressing climate change, but the legislation is facing stiff opposition from some Florida lawmakers.
“It is unilateral disarmament, economically,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said of the proposal during a recent interview on FOX News. “It’s actually self-inflicted damage that we would do to ourselves if even pieces of that were implemented.”
Republican Congressman John Rutherford, who represents much of Jacksonville, describes the Green New Deal as a “socialist manifesto masquerading as an environmental proposal.”
He does, however, support some aspects of the resolution, specifically the call to build up resiliency.
“In fact, I just recently joined the American Flood Coalition,” Rutherford said. He also pointed to his collaboration with St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver in her quest to get federal funding to help pay for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study on sea level rise and flooding.
While he supports efforts to defend against rising seas and flooding, Rutherford said he’s not sure what the causes are.
“I agree that climate change is happening, and we certainly have sea level rise,” he said. “I question what part of that is man made and what part of that is natural phenomenon.”
According to NASA, at least 97 percent of “actively publishing” climate scientists agree that “climate warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
In a federal assessment of climate science published last year, scientists concluded “there are no credible alternative human or natural explanations” to effects of atmospheric pollution for the warming detected during the past century, which is raising sea levels.
“I would say the root causes are still being studied and determined,” Rutherford said. “But the fact that we’ve got results from sea level rise is indisputable. So we’re addressing the things that we know and studying the things that we don’t know.”
Rutherford said he’s not opposed to the goal of transitioning the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy, but he doesn’t believe it’s possible to get there in the next decade - as the Green New Deal calls for - and he doesn’t agree with the economic policies Ocasio-Cortez and Markey are suggesting to get there.
“I think the free market solutions and innovations will come along,” he said. “That is how this change should take place.”
“We’ve already pretty extensively reduced our use of coal,” he explained. “We are relying more and more heavily on the gases. So I think that transition and innovation is taking place as we speak.”
But climate experts like Amy Snover, Director of the Climate Impact Group at the University of Washington, said the costs of unmitigated climate change would vastly outweigh any investments made today.
“Every bit of additional warming matters,” she said. “Every bit of additional warming makes the impacts that we’ll need to deal with locally, all around the country and the world, it will make those impacts bigger.”