Palm Beach Post: Editorial: SoFla mayors have reason to goad candidates on climate
Climate change in South Florida isn’t theoretical. It isn’t some problem for some undefinable future that our kids will have to deal with. It’s a pain in the neck right now.
Ask the people of Miami Beach, where they’re elevating streets to cope with the unstoppable rise of sea water. The people of Hallandale Beach, where most drinking wells are closed because the water is too salty.
Yet the two candidates for president from South Florida cannot bring themselves to acknowledge what’s happening.
To Jeb Bush, the science of climate change is “convoluted” and tarred by “intellectual arrogance.” To Marco Rubio, climate action is “trying to change the weather.”
To leaders on the ground — make that “ground zero” — it’s an entirely different thing.
“When a driveway is flooded, Marco Rubio doesn’t get the call,” says West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio. “I get the call.”
Muoio is one of 15 mayors of South Florida cities, mostly from Miami-Dade County, who sent open letters this week to Bush and Rubio, urging them to meet “and discuss with us the future of our communities in a warming climate.”
“In West Palm Beach, we’ve seen increased flooding, increased stormwater surges on Flagler Drive,” Muoio told The Post Editorial Board. “We know there’s been a rise in sea level, and so we have definitely seen the impact.”
West Palm Beach, is finishing up a stormwater master plan, Muoio said. Last year, Palm Beach County hired a “climate change and sustainability coordinator,” with a top task of implementing a four-county action plan that recommends such things as raising roads and moving drinking-water wells inland.
But the locals are battling the elements without enough allies. In Tallahassee, the Scott administration hates even to utter the words “climate change.” And while the White House has led almost 200 nations to reach agreement in Paris on carbon-reducing targets, the Republican party vows to undo every action President Obama takes.
Bush and Rubio used to know better. As the mayors’ letters say, Bush as governor commissioned a 2006 Department of Environmental Protection white paper acknowledging the severity of the crisis and, just last April, said “we need to work with the rest of the world to negotiate a way to reduce carbon emissions.”
As Florida House Speaker in 2006, Rubio wrote that he supported hybrid vehicles that save money “while reducing emissions and helping to curb global warming.”
But that, of course, was before they shifted gears to run for president — in the party that gets most of the fossil fuel industries’ big campaign money.
The mayors deserve credit for trying to force this issue. They want their meetings with the candidates by Feb. 29. Indeed, voters need to hear every one of the presidential candidates on this topic before the state’s March 15 primary.
Last year was the warmest year on record, according to NASA and NOAA. If seas rise a foot by 2050, as widely expected, the shift could wipe out as much as $4 billion in taxable real estate from Palm Beach to Monroe counties.
Whether you believe the earth is warming by human action or by some natural cycle or phenomenon, the water doesn’t care. It’s rising anyway.
“We need a realistic national plan to slow global warming emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” the mayors implore.
Blake Williams, Deputy Communications Director
Americans United For Change