Today, a group of scientists from Florida universities met with Florida’s Governor Rick Scott to present the science of climate change and its impacts on Floridians to him. This meeting was prompted by Governor Scott’s past responses about climate change. In 2011, he said, “I’ve not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change… Nothing’s convinced me that there is.” More recently, when asked about his plan for climate change, he stated “I am not a scientist.” In response, ten scientists from leading universities in Florida, sent a letter to Gov. Scott, requesting a meeting to help him understand the issue. The governor initially indicated that his staff would take the meeting, but ultimately decided to meet with the scientists himself.
Governor Scott has not acknowledged human activities are impacting the climate nor has he articulated a plan for dealing with the impacts. He has ducked questions on the issue time and again.
While the Governor stays silent on the issue, however, Floridians are in the crosshairs of some of the greatest, and first-to-be-felt, impacts of climate change, such as flooding and salt water intrusion into municipal drinking water wells from sea level rise. It is crucial that the Governor understands these impacts and takes action as the first-ever proposed limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants were released this summer by the EPA. Over the next few years, Florida’s governor will oversee the state’s plan to comply with the rule – which calls for reductions in Florida’s carbon pollution levels by 38% by 2030.
During today’s meeting, the scientists presented a compelling, fact-based case for why the Governor should care about climate change. They told him about the role of carbon pollution in global warming, how we have millions of years of data showing we now have too much carbon in the air from burning fossil fuels, how global warming causes sea level rise, and how all this jeopardizes Floridians’ way of life. The scientists also connected the dots between climate science and political science and called for leadership to address this crisis, including statewide adaptation and mitigation planning using the best available science. They presented the costs of inaction on climate change and stressed the importance of taking the EPA’s proposed limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants seriously.
Following the meeting, Dr. David Hastings, professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College, said that he did not feel there was any recognition from Governor Scott about the importance of the impacts of climate change, even though it would have been easy on his part. The Governor did not spend much of the short meeting focussing on climate science itself, but rather used the first ten to fifteen minutes asking each professor which classes they teach, and then ended the meeting a few minutes early. In spite of this, when Dr. Hastings tried to impart the fact that there are tremendous viable solutions for dealing with climate change and how the Governor could be a strong leader on the issue, he was cut off “in the interest of time” by an aide.
What Governor Scott will do with this information remains to be seen. The Governor does not need to be a scientist to act on behalf of Floridians, but he surely does need to take advice from experts. Governor Scott must listen to the recommendations of these experts, who collectively possess hundreds of years of experience studying these issues, and represent some of the finest of Florida’s academic institutions.
Governor Scott, now the ball is in your court–what’s your plan?