Florida Republican Warns Sea-Level Rise Is "Speculation or Personal Opinion"

Sea-level rise maybe isn't real, says a powerful Republican state rep.
Sea-level rise maybe isn't real, says a powerful Republican state rep.

Sea-level rise shouldn't be a controversial subject in a state subcommittee tasked with talking about Everglades restoration and water management. That's exactly why two state representatives from South Florida began asking a Tallahassee bureaucrat earlier this week about climate change's impact on the state's projects.

But this is Florida, where the GOP is still living in a fantasyland where Miami Beach isn't sinking into the Atlantic. So the meeting's chairman — a Republican businessman from Central Florida — quickly interjected to warn that sea-level rise was simply "speculation or personal opinion."

For politicians who actually represent low-lying South Florida, the moment was just the latest frustration in a state where the governor himself has banned "climate change" from official documents and the attorney general is suing over plans to promote cleaner energy.

"It's entirely appropriate for us to be asking our state agencies to assess the risks and to prioritize plans for eventual sea-level rise," says Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who was in the meeting. "It's not a partisan issue. It's just that the folks who happen to be in power right now are inexplicably afraid of the issue."

The latest moment of conservative-climate-change lunacy came Tuesday in a meeting of the Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Rodriguez — who has been outspoken about climate change, inviting skeptical state Attorney General Pam Bondi to see Miami flooding for herself — was the first to broach the topic. 

"Looking at the prospect for low or moderate sea-level rise, what would the priorities be, and how would the system be impacted?" he asked a representative from the state Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM).

Before the rep could answer, subcommittee chairman Rep. Ben Albritton interrupted. 

"We want to be very careful, of course, in providing speculation or personal opinion on something that may be out five, ten, 15, or 30 years from now," he cautioned, "and not building concrete ideas or concrete decisions around this table on something that might be speculation."

Albritton repeated a similar warning later in the meeting when Rep. Kristine Diane Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat, raised her own sea-level-rise questions. 

So, is Albritton a well-versed climate scientist with relevant data to share? Uh, no. He just read a book, that's all. 

Albritton hasn't responded to a message from New Times, but this is what he told Politico this morning

"I don't understand sea level rise, global warming — this whole discussion," Albritton said. "I've seen really good data that shows global warming. I read a book recently that had really good data in it that shows we are actually entering into a cooling period that happens about every 200 years."

To recap: A Republican with no scientific background who read an unnamed, 5-year-old book is happy to throw a wrench in state proceedings surrounding an issue with close to 100 percent scientific consensus. Meanwhile, saltwater intrusion and spiking king tides are already affecting the people who live in South Florida.   


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