Florida Republicans haven’t exactly been making headlines for their progressive stance on climate change. But a lone Republican has begun to push for action within his party. Representative Carlos Curbelo, who represents Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which stretches from Miami to Key West, says he understands climate change is “a major challenge and threat we all face, especially in South Florida.”
“I have objectively taken a look at the information out there, and it’s evident the climate is changing,” Curbelo told New Times. “Certainly human beings are having an effect on the climate.”
His positions are a far cry from those of other Florida Republicans, including former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio, who have both expressed doubt as to whether human activity is causing climate change. Governor Rick Scott reportedly forbids his staff from even mentioning the words climate change.
Curbelo, a Hialeah native, says he doesn’t view climate change as an ideological question, of conservative versus liberal, but rather a “real issue that demands real solutions.”
“I actually believe that more people agree with me in my party than they’d like to admit,” Curbelo says. “Unfortunately it’s become part of the political game.”
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On Earth Day, Curbelo accompanied President Obama on Air Force One to the Everglades, where the President gave a speech on climate change. There, in Homestead, Curbelo pledged to “put party politics aside and seek bipartisan solutions to climate change and sea level rise.” For his pledge, Curbelo was invited back to Homestead in early May, to the Gateway Environmental Learning Center, to receive a “Climate Hero’s Welcome” from hundreds of fifth grade students, who presented more than 200 handwritten thank you letters.
Curbelo says he’s impressed and inspired by the interest shown by young people towards the environment—a divergence from the tone in Washington, where “most people in government are older and aren’t really thinking 20 or 30 years ahead.”
Curbelo, who is 35, says we all need to prepare for the “inevitable effects” of climate change in South Florida, like rising sea levels. He wants to see investments in things like infrastructure, Everglades restoration and building codes.
Given that Miami has become a major economic driver for the country’s economy, and a trade hub and Latin American banking capital, “Miami being at risk is not just a local issue,” he says. “It’s a national one.”