Pamela Rivera, Latino Engagement Associate / Program Assistant, Washington, D.C.
Last week former environmental officials released a statement supporting Governor Rick Scott’s “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” conservation plan. While conservation is a worthy goal, it will mean very little if state leaders like Governor Scott don’t also develop a plan focused on addressing climate change, specifically reducing carbon pollution.
We need a plan that is based on the science that five Florida scientists shared with Governor Scott last Tuesday and that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy shared in a recent op-ed. This plan would be called, “Let’s Keep Florida Breathable.”
Many Floridians hope Governor Scott will show leadership by acknowledging: 1) climate change is occurring and that humans are contributing to that change, 2) Florida is Ground Zero for the effects of climate change and 3) that the time is now to make a plan to protect Floridians from the worst effects: rising sea levels and extreme heat events. When asked directly after meeting with the scientists if he now believes that humans are contributing to global climate change, Governor Scott said, “I had a real good meeting (Tuesday) with some scientists who came out to talk about global warming. I listened to their presentation. What I want to talk to you about is not causation so much as solutions. I’m a solutions person.”
Many thought that the startling findings of the landmark National Climate Assessment, which found that Florida is “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability” caused by climate change, would create a sense of urgency in Governor Scott. Dr. David Hastings, one of the scientists who met with Governor Scott said he had hoped for a “moment for leadership.” Instead, Dr. Hastings said, “there was, in fact, no acknowledgment of the issue, nor was there any reflection of the seriousness of the issue.” That left Professor Hastings “concerned [Governor Scott] might not do anything.”
Fortunately the EPA’s draft rules on carbon pollution mean Florida and other states will need to formulate strong plans to reduce carbon pollution by 38% by 2030.
As Administrator McCarthy and Maria Cardona, of the Latino environmental policy organization Voces Verdes, wrote in their recent op-ed, addressing climate change by reducing carbon pollution means better health for everyone, including the 350,000 children and 1.2 million adults in Florida and the 7 million children annually who suffer from asthma.
This is truly a pivotal moment for Florida’s future. The question, as the Miami Herald asked in a blog post, is simple: “Will the governor continue to do what he has carefully done this year and avoid taking a position that would inform Floridians where he will lead the state as it faces federal deadlines to address EPA rules to lower carbon emissions?” Or, “will he let the climate experts persuade him that action is needed to avoid the rising tides that imperil its shores?” We anxiously await Governor Scott’s answer.