Editorials

Rubio and Scott are too smart to be so clueless about fighting climate change | Editorial

The political arm of Big Oil and King Coal, also known as the Republican Party, has been in such total denial about climate change that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio made news last week simply by acknowledging that it’s real and that our state is in peril.

In a USA Today op-ed, Rubio called for “adaptive solutions” — such as protecting Florida’s coral reefs and improving the water flow of the Everglades — to help the state cope with coastal flooding.

Asked for a response, a spokesman for Sen. Rick Scott said the senator agrees with what Rubio has proposed and believes, “Climate change is real and requires real solutions.”

But let’s hold the applause.

Neither senator shows any interest in addressing the primary driver of climate change — the burning of fossil fuels, which releases carbon into the atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect.

Read closely, Rubio’s article was a clear signal to the producers of oil, coal and natural gas that they have nothing to fear from him.

Attempting to control carbon emissions through a tax or some “Green New Deal scheme,” he said, will fail. “The cost would set our state back, depriving us of the resources we desperately need to continue to adapt.”

Adapt, Rubio says. We simply need to adapt.

“America is America because we’ve never been simply willing to adapt,” argues Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, a leader in the push to slow the acceleration of carbon in the atmosphere.

“If there’s something that needs to be fixed, we fix it. That’s the way our country works.”

“It’s the same approach to gun safety,” Deutch notes. “Things are terrible and there’s a mass shooting every few weeks, but let’s just adapt.”

Deutch is a co-sponsor with Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican from Naples, of a bill to impose a fee on carbon emissions and return the money to citizens as a dividend. It’s precisely the sort of sensible solution that Rubio is dissing. Although its prospects are nil with the current Senate and the incumbent president, the fact that there is a bipartisan climate caucus offering real solutions holds promise for the future.

Deutch, by the way, spearheaded the bipartisan climate caucus. Rubio should get on board.

So should Rick Scott who, as governor, notes he spent more than $300 million for “flood mitigation, coastal resiliency, beach re-nourishment and coral reef protection.”

But spending $300 million over eight years is little more than pocket change for a state whose budget is approaching $90 billion annually.

And while protecting the Everglades and the coral reefs are worthwhile, and even urgent, it does nothing to mitigate the windstorm damage that ever-stronger hurricanes are certain to inflict throughout the state, the rising sea levels that already threaten certain South Florida neighborhoods, the excess deaths to be expected from more days of extreme heat, the uncertain damage to agricultural crops and the spread of insect-borne diseases.

Last month was the warmest worldwide since at least 1850, and probably in the entire history of human civilization. A vast majority of climate scientists regard human activity, principally through carbon emissions, as the principal causation. So does virtually every government in the world — except ours.

Yet President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Accord, which calls for holding the increase in global average temperature to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Ominously, it’s already more than halfway there. Syria and Nicaragua are the only other non-participants.

Trump’s revocation of the Obama administration’s higher automotive fuel efficiency standards is another step toward climate disaster. Tellingly, four major automakers are partnering with California to observe the standards, a fifth may soon join them, and the petulant president is enraged.

But at least Rubio said something about climate change last week.

As for Scott, he was the governor who cowed his agencies into never saying the words.

Scott’s spokesman said the senator “will review any proposal that comes before the Senate to address climate change.”

In other words, he will wait and see, then sit in judgment.

Florida needs senators who won’t sit on their hands. We need leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Scott is in the first year of a six-year term he won largely by spending $64 million of his own money to eke out a narrow victory over Sen. Bill Nelson.

Rubio is in the third year of his current term. He has no massive fortune. Might he be worried about a popular Democratic challenger in 2022? Someone who would treat climate change as the worldwide crisis it really is?

Someone like, say, Ted Deutch?

“The Invading Sea” is a collaboration of four South Florida media organizations — the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media.

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