Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Gov. Rick Scott meets with scientists but remains silent on climate change

Eckerd College marine science professor David Hastings, left, speaks to Gov. Scott, right, and his aide, Noah Valenstein, about why Florida should act to offset the impact of climate change.
Published Aug. 20, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott listened to five of Florida's top climate scientists Tuesday as they urged him to show leadership and develop policies to offset the impact of human-induced climate change to the state.

But the governor whose campaign strategy has been to say nothing on the issue except that he is "not a scientist," stayed true to his plan. He would not comment, question or commit to whether or not he believes the warnings by the experts deserve his attention.

"Thank you all,'' Scott said as the scientists finished their presentations within the 30-minute time period set aside to meet with them. His policy aide, Noah Valenstein, thanked the scientists for attending, and the governor exited the room. Next on the governor's schedule was "staff and call time,'' his aides said.

The scientists, who are at the top of their fields at the University of Miami, Florida State University and Eckerd College had asked for the meeting a month ago to explain the urgency of developing a more activist set of policies to mitigate the impact of global warming.

Scott initially announced that his staff would meet with the scientists, but he agreed to personally meet with them only after former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democratic candidate for governor and climate change believer, announced he would personally meet with the experts.

"This is not complicated,'' David Hastings, professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College, said before the meeting. "We teach this to 18-year-olds every year and I've been doing it for 25 years. It's not hard science."

He said he hoped the meeting would be a "moment for leadership" from the governor and a "moment to demonstrate to his constituents that he cares."

Seated in a circle in the governor's Capitol office, the scientists made their case, one by one, as the media recorded the moment.

Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami, showed the governor a map of Miami-Dade and Broward counties that depicted how 2 feet of sea level rise — projected by 2048 — will swallow much of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and nearly all of the state's barrier islands.

Jeff Chanton, professor of oceanography at Florida State University, detailed how human activities have changed the composition of the atmosphere since the industrial age — a timeline etched into carbon dioxide deposits captured in layers of polar ice.

John Van Leer, associate professor of ocean sciences at UM, spoke about how the ocean traps the globe's warming temperatures, melting the polar ice cap and expanding the volume of water in a two-pronged assault on Florida's shores.

"As scientists, we're the map makers," said Hastings of Eckerd College. But to the governor, he said, "as policymakers, you're the navigators" and "we need strong leadership from your office — and from you in particular — to minimize the impact."

In an obvious appeal to the governor's constant focus on jobs, the scientists also donned their business hats.

"There is a geothermal industry, which could happen here to replace a lot of the energy we're using in air conditioning," said Van Leer, adding: "The longer you wait the cost of the solution goes up about 40 percent a decade."

Finally, the scientists spoke of the current costs of doing nothing: Sea level rises have caused flooding in Miami Beach at high tide, saltwater has encroached into drinking water, and warming temperatures and increasing salinity are destroying coral reefs.

The governor did have some questions.

He asked the professors to explain their backgrounds, describe the courses they taught and where students in their academic fields get jobs. But Scott, who said in 2010 that he has "not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change" showed no sign that his skepticism about human-induced climate change had shifted.

"There was, in fact, no acknowledgment of the issue nor was there any reflection of the seriousness of the issue,'' Hastings said after the meeting. "I'm concerned he might not do anything."

Each of the scientists commended the governor for allowing the meeting and Hastings encouraged the governor to develop an action plan. Under new Environmental Protection Agency's Climate rules, Florida must reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 38 percent by 2030 and the governor has until Oct. 15 to comment on the rules. A plan must be in place within two years.

"Florida is uniquely positioned to be a leader — in how to adapt and how to mitigate the effects of climate change,'' Kirtman said.

Scott and his aide sat silently as Hastings urged the governor's office to "develop a transparent process" to prepare the plan that "brings all the stakeholders together."

The easy solutions, Hastings said, are to reduce or eliminate coal-fired power plants, increase efficiency to wean the state off carbon-emitting natural gas and oil-fired power, and to develop more alternative energy options.

None of those options are embraced by the state's electric power industry, however.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing $1 billion in increased teacher pay as part of a $91.4 billion state budget he put forward on Monday. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    The Florida governor also wants to hire hundreds of new corrections officers and spend $1.4 billion on hurricane recovery.
  2. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  3. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, filed a bill, HB 1161, to implement online voter registration in 2018.
    This week, GOP senators rallied support around Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, to become Senate president for the 2023 and 2024 legislative session.
  4. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, right, testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, in the second public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. SUSAN WALSH  |  AP
    Experts on foreign policy said it was ridiculous to think that one person could turn a country “bad.”
  5. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, talks with ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, during the first public impeachment hearing of President Donald Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP) SAUL LOEB  |  AP
    Almost 9 in 10 think the House impeaches Trump but the Senate won’t convict.
  6. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker speaking during 2016 graduation ceremonies at the Florida State University College of Law. [Florida State College of Law] Florida State College of Law
    The ruling, if it’s not overturned, means that President Donald Trump will not automatically be first on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
  7. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Pensacola.
    Prosecutors say Farm Service Agency director Duane E. Crawson, 43, of Bonifay, led a conspiracy to get his friends, family members and acquaintances to recruit others to submit false applications for...
  8. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Panama City City Hall on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. His wife Casey DeSantis is pregnant with the family's third child. He joked that the family will have to transition from "man-to-man to zone defense." (Joshua Boucher/News Herald via AP) JOSHUA BOUCHER/ THE NEWS HERALD  |  AP
    The federal judge had ordered that 17 felons not be removed from the voter rolls before a lawsuit goes to trial next year.
  9. In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. MANUEL BALCE CENETA  |  AP
    Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary...
  10. The Capitol is seen in Washington on. Impeachment hearings for President Donald Trump come at the very time that Capitol Hill usually tends to its mound of unfinished business. J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement