Five Times Florida Politicians Acted Like Morons on Climate Change

How malicious and dumb is Donald Trump? He not only pulled out of the historic Paris Agreement to fight climate change this week, but he also announced he'll hold a "Pittsburgh, Not Paris" rally to stress that he somehow is fighting for Americans instead of global climate scientists.

But climate change will fry Pittsburgh too: By as early as 2030, all of Pennsylvania could be living under serious drought conditions.

Such is now the quality of American political discourse. But we here in Florida have been living in this strange nether-reality for quite some time. Though the state for many years has been an environmental catastrophe, the election of Rick Scott in 2011 truly seems to have plunged Florida into a pre-Trumpian bizarro world from which we have yet to emerge. Now that Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is tap-dancing around admitting whether he supports the agreement.

Here's a brief history of the state's worst climate moves:

1. Banning the word "climate change" from public discourse

As first reported by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting's Tristram Korten, a New Times alum:

The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years.

But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes.

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.


2. Babbling like an idiot when asked about global warming at a presidential debate

During a Republican primary debate in the 2016 election cycle, Florida's own Marco Rubio had this to say when asked why he didn't support cutting carbon emissions:

"One, because America is not a planet — it's a country," Rubio said of the effects of passing laws in America. "And number two, because these other countries, like India and China, are more than making up in carbon emissions for whatever we could possibly cut. "

Well, of course there are international efforts to curb carbon emissions in China and India. President Obama has had some modest success on that front.

America is also the number two producer of carbon emissions, behind only China and ahead of India.

But is Rubio suggesting that cutting carbon emissions in India and China would have an effect on climate change? His logic in this answer would seem to suggest so.

Why would someone who doesn't believe that carbon emissions are causing sea-level rise even bother to mention carbon emissions in India and China?

And if we ever expect India and China to curb emissions, shouldn't America lead by example?

In any event, Regalado asked Rubio a simple question about what he would do. What we got was a list of things he wouldn't do, supported by murky rhetoric about why he couldn't do them, all of which held less water than Miami Beach roads at high tide. 


3. Meeting with climate scientists for a whole 30 minutes and asking them nonsense

The scientists wanted to urge Scott to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state and urge a switch to renewable energy.

According to the News Service of Florida, Scott didn't seem that interested:

"Scott, a Republican running for re-election, said little, other than to ask whether the professors' students were getting jobs in Florida.

'He didn't reflect on the science," [Eckerd College scientist Dave] Hastings said afterward. "So he asked modest questions, but he did not ask questions that reflected his understanding of the material.'"


4. Trying (and failing) to replace the phrase "climate change" with the words "atmopsheric reemployment" for some stupid reason

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been fighting all month against claims by former state employees that his administration banned the use of "climate change." With state workers now upping the ante — including news yesterday one state employee was ordered into a mental health exam for demanding to use the forbidden words — Scott has remained firm: There's no such policy, he insists.

Well, his state disaster chief's tragicomic performance in a Senate hearing yesterday isn't likely to help the governor's case. Bryan Koon, chief of the Florida Division of Emergency, stammered and smiled his way through a line of questioning when state senators tried to goad him into uttering those two magic words. He refused to take the bait.


5. Who are we kidding? The silly political gaffes don't matter as much as (1) approving a huge natural gas pipeline, (2) letting a Texas oil company look for fracking sites in the Everglades, (3) doing nothing to combat urban sprawl, (4) letting FPL move forward with expanding a nuclear plant, and (5) just generally being Florida in the face of so much science.

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