Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Scott has heard the science, now he should act

Gov. Rick Scott gets credit for listening this week to climate scientists from Eckerd College, Florida State University and elsewhere describe the ways humans are affecting climate change, the impact of global warming on the state and how government can respond. That is more than other skeptics have done, and the Florida Cabinet and the Legislature could use an expert tutorial as well. Now the governor should take the next step and develop a comprehensive approach to addressing an issue that will dramatically affect Florida's future.

Scott, who initially steered the scientists toward his aides after they requested to meet with him, had the political sense to sit with them with the media watching Tuesday after Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor turned likely Democratic nominee, made it a campaign issue. He said little during or after the 30-minute meeting, but now that he has been fully briefed he cannot keep responding to questions about climate change by repeating, "I'm not a scientist.''

College students aren't scientists, either, and these experts have no trouble explaining to them how global warming occurs or the overwhelming evidence that humans are contributing to it. The scientists can recount how the climate has fluctuated, melting polar ice caps and raising sea levels. They can detail how humans have had an impact since the Industrial Revolution by burning fossil fuels and dramatically increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And they can make clear how more carbon dioxide has led to higher temperatures, rising seas and more flooding.

The scientists also told Scott that Florida, as a low-lying peninsula, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They explained how sea levels could rise by 2 feet and cover shorelines, including most of the state's barrier islands. (Imagine the impact on Tampa Bay and the state if the beaches disappeared at some point this century.) They detailed the impact that is already being felt, from street flooding at high tide to saltwater encroaching into drinking water supplies. Yet while Florida is among the coastal states most at risk from the effects of climate change, it has no viable energy policy, and efforts to address the practical impacts are spotty and at the local government level.

The governor told reporters earlier Tuesday that he was interested in hearing solutions from the scientists and that he learned in private business about the importance of solving problems. With legislators facing eight-year term limits and politicians running perpetual political campaigns, it is difficult to get anyone in Tallahassee to focus on a future beyond the next election. But there are concrete steps the next governor and the Legislature could take to start addressing climate change:

• Phase out coal-fired electric plants.

• Provide viable options to increase the use of renewable fuels such as solar energy.

• Increase incentives to promote energy efficiency.

• Develop a comprehensive drinking water policy that recognizes the dangers of saltwater intrusion.

• Work with local governments to lessen the immediate impacts such as street flooding at high tide, and prepare for the future with smarter land use plans that steer development away from the most vulnerable areas.

Scott has heard from the scientists, and he doesn't have to pretend to be one to address climate change. The next governor and the Legislature should meet this challenge with real solutions rather than denying it exists and leaving future generations to pay for their neglect.

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Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 8 hours ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18