Did you hear that right? Yes, I just compared the actions of the scariest group on earth and the governor of the state of Florida. Both have rewritten a little history lately, and I’m somewhat concerned about what their revisions portend for our future.
The governor of Florida appears to be attempting to whitewash the fact that residents of his state are in for some coastline alterations due to climate change. The news comes from a report over the weekend by Tristram Korten of the little-known Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Climate Progress broke the news on Sunday and 35,000 people reportedly shared it. Quickly, the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, and national and international media picked up the story. National Geographic was even ahead of the game. In February, Laura Parker thoughtfully addressed Florida’s “noisy, contentious public debate” over climate issues, including but not limited to taxes, zoning, public works projects, and property rights.
In his weekend investigation, Korten starts out slow with some facts that [almost] everyone agrees with:
“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…. Low-lying Miami is among the U.S. cities most vulnerable to sea-level rise.”
As well as sea level rise, the state is also uniquely vulnerable to harmful changes in storms and in hurricanes, temperature and precipitation, the acid balance of the ocean, and — vital for citrus crops — the duration and timing of the frost-free season.
Miami’s risk stands out because sea water has already started to soak through the city’s bedrock of porous limestone, seep up through pipes and drains, and compromising freshwater supplies. Global change there will affect landowners, minicipalities, federal interests, the real estate market (currently booming thanks to European and South American investors), the flood insurance system, and tourism, the state’s economic backbone. Ironically, Florida ranks fifth among states, behind only Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, in annual carbon dioxide emissions. As borders contract due to land subsidence and sea level rise, the CO2 numbers will likely fall.
Korten goes on to explain how independent witnesses, one of them a longtime attorney with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee, have revealed an unwritten policy adhered to by state officials since 2011, when Governor Rick Scott took office.
Scott, who beat Democrat (and longtime Republican before that) Charlie Crist and his backer Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action group, says he does not believe that climate change is caused by the activity of humans. He has reportedly instructed state employees not to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability” in any official reports. (They’ve been told to refer to “nuisance flooding” instead.) The governor’s directive goes beyond semantics, Korton says, and has affected “reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and [a] $1.4 billion budget.”
Funny how soon governments forget the conclusions they came to only five years ago. The Florida DEP, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services through The Oceans and Coastal Resources Act, wrote a report in 2010 that unequivocally stated:
“Some effects of climate change, such as acceleration of sea level rise, have already begun. Others will begin in the coming decades, and the time will come when Florida is simultaneously and continuously challenged by many of these effects. The long-term extent and severity of oceanic or coastal effects caused by climate change including sea-level rise ultimately depend on how rapidly humanity can eliminate human sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere at harmful levels, now and in the future…. Several local communities have begun to respond. Our wisest course is to expand our response to all of Florida now, while at the same time increasing our knowledge as recommended by this report.”
The official National Climate Assessment of 2014, an in-depth look at climate change impacts across the US, mentions Florida 71 times. A team of more than 300 experts produced this report, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, and experts [including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences] and the public reviewed it exhaustively.
Also last year, hundreds of scientists from 27 countries participating on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in the IPCC assessment report for world policymakers: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”
Questioning Florida state officials about what the witnesses had told him, Korton heard from Jeri Bustamante, a spokesperson with the governor’s office, that “There’s no policy on this.” The press secretary for the responsible state agency (Florida Department of Environmental Protection), Tiffany Cowie, replied “DEP does not have a policy on this” and declined to respond to three other emails requesting more information.
The newspaper reports cited University of Miami geologist Harold Wanless:
“You have to start real planning, and I’ve seen absolutely none of that from the current governor. It’s beyond ludicrous to deny using the term climate change. It’s criminal at this point.”
It’s ridiculous to claim this 180-degree volte-face in Florida has nothing to do with national politics and vested interests. And it can’t be laughed down to the level of some dude with a snowball (Senator Jim Inhofe) taking up precious minutes of congressional time.
Rick Scott isn’t the only singleminded state tyrannosaurus. Both the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources — and perhaps agencies from other states, we’ll see — have witnessed similar political sanitizing on climate change. Both Tennessee and Louisiana have passed laws to allow education about alternative “theories” to climate change, and five other states have considered similar legislation.
Perhaps even scarier, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Arkansas transplant Mike Huckabee, and Jeb Bush, all possible 2016 Republican candidates for the presidency, appear to share Scott’s perspective on the existence, causes, and possible antidotes for global climate change.
Declining to elaborate when asked about the weekend’s report, Scott told reporters yesterday, “First off, it’s not true. What we’re doing is, we’re solving problems…. Here’s what we’re dealing with: we’re dealing with the problems of Florida. We’re dealing with beach re-nourishment, flood mitigation, dealing with making sure we push water south [through the Everglades], we have the right storage things for the Everglades. We’re dealing with all these things.”
One account noted that Scott seemed to be recalling talking points from his reelection campaign. In a May 2014 interview, a Miami Herald reporter asked him, “Do you believe man-made climate change is significantly affecting the weather, the climate?”
“Well, I’m not a scientist,” Scott predictably averred. “But let’s talk about what we’ve done. Through our Division of Emergency Management — the last few years, three years — we put about, I think, $120 million to deal with flooding around our coast. We also put a lot of money into our natural treasures, the Everglades, trying to make sure all the water flows south. So we’re dealing with all the issues we can.”
A followup question came from the audience: “So do you believe in the man-made influence on climate change?”
The governor’s reply: “Nice seeing you, guys.”
Now, observers around the world have recently seen video of ISIS thugs destroying irreplaceable monuments of our human past. The bloody revisionists believe these artifacts to be idolatrous and contrary to their politically correct ideology of today. Never mind that these statues and friezes belong to the whole world and reach back as long ago as the settlement of the Fertile Crescent, where humans first learned to farm and to write. Along the same lines as 20th century iconoclasts Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, the current North Korean government, and a few other leaders of today, ISIS is attempting to wipe out collective human memories, while institutionalizing chaos.
What’s so different about these “true believers” and the governor of Florida? ISIS is bound on destroying vestiges of the past, on the grounds that these icons sully the present. Scott and his political kinfolk are taking thick red pencils to everyone’s future.
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