Saturday, April 21, 2018
Politics

Pinellas candidates differ on global warming, sea level rise

Nearly surrounded by water, the people of Pinellas County received one more reason last week to worry about hurricanes: A newly released study shows that over the decades, high tides have been getting higher at cities around the Gulf of Mexico.

Which means a hurricane hitting at high tide could be even more devastating.

The Tampa Bay Times caught up with three Pinellas County candidates for Congress to ask what, if anything, they would do to respond. The Times also asked the candidates broader questions about climate change and rising sea levels.

Democrat Alex Sink said "the overwhelming scientific evidence" points to global warming and rising sea levels. She said the federal government must address the issue by educating the public, by promoting alternative energy and by other means.

Republican David Jolly said Earth's climate changes over time, and people have had an impact. But he added, "I don't think the impact that humans have had on our climate is so dramatic that it requires a significant shift in federal policy."

Libertarian Lucas Overby said in an emailed statement "it is possible we have affected the global climate as a species, but I am skeptical that we have radically altered the course of our planet." Therefore, he said the federal government should "proceed cautiously" with any response.

The study compared tidal measurements collected between 1900 and 2011 at 13 locations around the gulf, from Key West to Port Isabel, Texas, including St. Petersburg.

It shows high tides have been getting higher and low tides lower, attributed at least partly to global climate change. This has "almost doubled the risk of hurricane-induced flooding associated with sea level rise since the 1990s for the eastern and northeastern Gulf of Mexico coastlines," according to the study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The study and its warning about hurricane-induced flooding comes at a time when many Pinellas residents are perhaps more worried about flood insurance rates than about the flooding itself. Flood insurance rates went up as a result of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program that were designed to make it solvent.

Considering the hurricane flooding danger may have grown, doesn't that suggest flood insurance rates should be somewhat higher?

No candidate took that tack.

Sink, 65, a former banking executive, Florida chief financial officer and 2010 Democratic nominee for governor, pointed to her previously announced plan, which she said would protect the program. It involves stopping the recent spike in rates, completing federal studies on flood maps and costs to consumers, and promoting ways of preventing flood damage.

Jolly, 41, a former congressional aide who has worked in Washington as a lobbyist, lawyer and consultant, pointed to his plan. It calls for pooling the risk of multiple natural disasters into one program that would cover tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and others.

Overby, 27, a commercial diver, said Congress should improve the flood insurance program by placing a "huge focus on allowing private insurance options."

On broader climate change matters, Sink called for tax credits for renewable energy production, and pushed for wind power, "nonfood biofuels" and solar power. "Florida is, unfortunately, a clear example of a state that has ample resources to facilitate its leadership in clean power production and yet it has never sufficiently tapped these natural, sustainable energy sources," she said in an emailed statement.

Jolly also believes in incentives designed to help businesses develop clean energy solutions. He added that while the climate may have changed over the century-long period examined in the study, "I don't believe it changes in such a fashion that it requires what we've seen out of Washington, which is this reactionary global warming public policy." He said he is concerned about any policies that risk "crippling jobs and the economy and industry."

Both Jolly and Sink said Pinellas County's environment and economy are closely tied together, and both need support.

Asked about global warming and sea level rise in general, Overby said "there are competing numbers and theories on this that have led me to a place of neither belief nor disbelief." He said he would not "dedicate resources we don't have" to the issue.

The candidates are all running in Congressional District 13, which extends from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of downtown and southern St. Petersburg cut out. The election is March 11.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or [email protected] On Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

   
Comments
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18
Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

Castor ends speculation: She’s running to be Tampa’s next mayor

TAMPA — For months, Tampa political aficionados have speculated: Will she or won’t she?Does Jane Castor, the city’s first woman police chief and presumed heavyweight mayoral candidate, really want the job? Asked and answered. Castor filed paperwork T...
Published: 04/19/18
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18