During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, when Rick Scott was asked if he believed in climate change, his response was, “I have not been convinced.” Since then, he has evolved from denier to evader, and his current position stands at, “I am not a scientist.”
Luckily for Scott, Florida is full of scientists, and they are happy to pitch in and explain the big words. Ten of them, led by Professor Jeff Chanton, an oceanographer with Florida State University, delivered a letter to the governor’s office this week. “We are scientists,” they wrote. “And we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.”
Turns out the evidence for climate change is so clear and straightforward anyone, even a Republican governor, can understand it. “It’s not rocket science,” Chanton told Mary Ellen Klas at the Tampa Bay Times, “I can explain it. Give me half an hour.”
Scott initially offered to send someone from his administration to meet with the scientists. (Admittedly, he was busy that week fighting Harry Potter, but it still didn’t look good.) Then, when he heard his Democratic rival in the next gubernatorial election, Charlie Crist, was going to meet with the scientists, Scott cancelled a gig he’d scheduled with his Midnight Oil cover band, and agreed to talk.
Jeff Spross at ThinkProgress offers a hint of what the conversation might sound like:
The recently released National Climate Assessment warned that Southeast Florida is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, and that “just inches of sea level rise will impair the capacity of stormwater drainage systems to empty into the ocean.” A tide gauge in Key West that’s been measuring sea levels since 1913 has detected an eight-inch rise as of 2013, and the World Resources Institute projects another rise of anywhere between nine inches and two feet by 2060. By 2030, the risk of storm surges at the four foot mark is anticipated to double, and the more dire scenarios project a sea level rise of as much as six feet by the end of the century.
That would do away with both Scott’s own beach-side mansion and the city of Miami. Meanwhile, 75 percent of South Florida’s residents — around 4.12 million people — live along the coast, and 2.4 million of them live within four feet of the tide line.
Scott’s decision to meet with the scientists is probably a shrewd move, as most Floridians believe climate change is not just real, but anthropogenic in origin — and not just most Floridians, but the most Floridian Floridians. Frankly, the Governor of Florida turning away climatologists is kind of like the mayor of Tokyo being too busy to talk to the Godzilla experts. Here’s hoping they can get the message through his thick and horrifying skull.