by Debra Jacobson
Several weeks ago, a friend of mine, who lives in South Florida, told me that she was considering voting for Mitt Romney in the Presidential Election – the first time that she had considered voting for a Republican for President. Her stated reason was that she thought that “change” was needed. Although I understood the economic challenges experienced by my friend immediately following the 2008 economic collapse, I responded that the changes embodied in Romney’s economic and budget policies were not in her best interests. In fact, I strongly believe that Governor Romney’s policies on a wide variety of issues — ranging from health care and Medicare to financial regulation and women’s issues – are adverse to my friend’s best interests.
As an adjunct professor who teaches energy law and policy, however, I am most knowledgeable about the adverse impacts of candidate Romney’s proposed policies on energy and environmental matters, particularly his dangerous views on climate change. Although Romney was a strong supporter of incentives for renewable energy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when he was Governor of Massachusetts, he has flip-flopped on these issues in his effort to win the Republican Presidential nomination.
As I watched the TV footage showing the devastating impacts of Hurricane Isaac battering the Gulf Coast, my anger about Romney’s proposed policies has intensified. Even if a single storm can’t be definitely connected to climate change, the leading scientists of the world agree that climate change increases the risk of extreme weather events, including heavy rainfall.
My message to my friend is now clear – one type of change you can count on with Mitt Romney is UNRESTRAINED CLIMATE CHANGE! And the effects of unrestrained climate change will be disastrous to South Florida. This is a particularly serious issue for my friend, whose major equity is her ownership of a condo on the South Florida coastline.
At a climate change conference sponsored by Florida Atlantic University in June 2012, scientists emphasized that South Florida has more people and property at risk from rising sea levels than any state in the country. And even before such change, scientists have warned that Florida coastal residents could expect increasing damage from hurricane storm surge and flooding, rising insurance rates, and shrinking freshwater supplies as sea water rise taints coastal wells. And Florida taxpayers will bear the costs of modifying local infrastructure to address these problems. For example, the City of Hallandale Beach, Florida is considering a plant to drill new wells several miles inland at a cost of three million dollars – a very large investment for a city with a $100 million dollar budget.
And, of course, I would ask my friend to think about the debt that Mitt Romney wants to leave to our children and grandchildren – not only the debt of a budget plan that does not add up – but also the debt of squandering our planet (including our beautiful beaches) and leaving the exorbitant bills to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars on more seawall barriers and other costly infrastructure improvements that may not even provide protection from the eventual storms.
When Governor Romney denigrated President Obama’s efforts to protect the planet from sea level rise in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention and stressed that he would protect families instead, his comments were both wrong-headed and immoral. Only someone who had spent his week immersed in the bubble of the Republican convention would issue remarks so insensitive to families who had been forced to escape through rooftops because of rising waters from extreme weather. Only someone who ignored the tenets of the major religions of the world (including his own Mormon faith) requiring us to be “stewards of the earth” would reject that precept that is intended to protect our families and future generations.
Debra Jacobson is a Professorial Lecturer in Energy Law at The George Washington University Law School. She also is President of DJ Consulting LLC.