Sen. Marco Rubio recognizes the value of nuance.
We wish the Florida Republican would place as much value on hard facts. Rubio's remarks last week questioning the contribution of human activity to climate change weren't really new, as he has previously gone on record disputing the basic science of the global phenomenon.
What's strange this time around is that Rubio is sticking to, and even reloading his guns on this issue days after the release of the National Climate Assessment saying that the effects of climate change were already being felt in the United States. Moreover, the report found that his home state of Florida -- specifically Tampa and Miami -- is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to the resulting rising sea levels.
But Rubio isn't really worried.
"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio told Jonathan Karl of ABC News's This Week in an interview last Sunday. "And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy."
Florida's junior senator went on to note that scientists are exaggerating, and that "I don't know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable."
Indeed, but why continue to deny the fact that human activities such as cutting down forests and burning fossil fuels are causing those changes to happen faster, and are more likely to affect your own constituents sooner?
Well, if Rubio is seeking to bolster his credential as a tea party darling, it will surely help him in that regard. Ever since his falling out with the tea party conservatives over immigration reform, he has been playing a little catch up to other potential 2016 GOP presidential rivals -- like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Most notably, he's been overshadowed by another Floridian, former Gov. Jeb Bush -- who not only has pedigree and name recognition, but more establishment backing. Early last week, House Speaker John Boehner said he's "nudged" Bush to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
"Jeb Bush is my friend. I think he'd make a great president," Boehner reportedly said at an event sponsored by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
When asked during the This Week interview whether he thought he was ready to be president, Rubio said, "I do."
If so, he needs to either offer hard facts to back up his climate change denials or back away from his partisan view.
And while Rubio nuanced his remarks by arguing against "the way these scientists are portraying" the issue, PolitiFact said he is "ignoring a mountain of concrete, scientific research" and rated his claim "False".
Rubio is right to argue that there should be a healthy debate over how we address and lessen the effects of climate change. But rather than "our climate is always changing," he should bolster the efforts of other Florida political leaders -- particularly in Southeast Florida -- already working across party lines to prepare for the inevitable sea level rise that threatens to disappear our barrier islands.
"Whatever the cause of climate change, the impacts on Florida are already important and it would be difficult for responsible people in Florida to ignore that fact," Leonard Berry, director of Florida Atlantic University's Center for Environmental Studies, told PolitiFact.
Rubio would be smart to make that a larger factor in his political calculus.