Editorial: David Jolly, Lucas Overby wrong on climate change

Published Jan. 28, 2014

Former lobbyist David Jolly may have spent too much time in Washington if he doesn't recognize the connection between Congress' role in setting environmental policies and campaigning in a vulnerable coastal county with rising high tides and flood concerns. Both Jolly, a Republican candidate for U.S. House District 13, and Lucas Overby, his Libertarian opponent, are refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence that humans have had an extensive impact on climate change and by extension, rising tides in Pinellas County and elsewhere. Theirs is an irresponsible position based on ignorance, or worse, pandering. Only Democrat Alex Sink has shown a commitment to helping turn the tide on climate change.

Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times, "I don't think the impact that humans have had on our climate is so dramatic as it requires a significant shift in federal policy." Overby said he was skeptical "that we have radically altered the course of our planet." Both are speaking pablum to a cadre of science deniers who are more interested in protecting their own ignorance or economic interests than ensuring a future for the planet.

Their comments belie decades of research, including the fifth report of the well-regarded Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued last year that went further than ever before in linking climate change to human actions: "It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010. There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century."

They're also ignoring research released just last week involving scientists at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg that showed high tides were exponentially rising in the Gulf of Mexico, doubling in just 20 years the risk of hurricane-induced flooding all along the coastline.

They are ignoring the very real successes of efforts such as the international 1989 Montreal Protocol that is now credited with phasing out nearly 100 ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons. Perhaps they also forgot it was conservative President Ronald Reagan, a victim of skin cancer, whose administration helped orchestrate the accord.

Every member of Congress should have an interest in impacting a phenomenon that has such devastating potential for Americans and their way of life. But for congressional candidates hailing from a peninsular county in a peninsular state where high tides are already rising due to climate change, it should be an automatic top priority. Jolly and Overby need to go back to their science books and learn some facts, not just talking points. And then they need to sign up to do something about it for the people they say they want to represent in Congress.