Sen. Marco Rubio cast doubt on President Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change in an interview with CNN this week, saying that the president was “not a meteorologist.”
The Florida senator’s comments came in response to a question on the White House’s National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive report on the impacts the U.S. is facing from climate change which was released this week. Rubio said that though he understands that a “vast consensus” of climate scientists believe humans are contributing to climate change, he thinks it’s an “enormous stretch to say that every weather incident that we now read about — or the majority of them — are attributable to human activity.”
Though Rubio was right to assert that the majority of climate scientists agree climate change is occurring due to human activities, his statements on extreme weather don’t portray the current state of climate science’s views on extreme weather accurately. Scientists don’t think that climate change necessarily causes every extreme weather event; rather, they they think climate change acts as steroids would to a baseball player, increasing the likelihood of some extreme weather events and increasing their power and impact when they do happen.
Rubio then addressed policy responses to the threat posed by this “vast consensus.”
“Here’s what we need to do as policy makers — because that’s what the president is, he’s not a meteorologist,” Rubio said. “He’s proposing a certain set of policies that he would have to admit, if questioned, will do nothing if in fact these scientists are right and it’s greenhouse gas emissions that are changing our climate, none of the things he’s proposing would do anything to change that whatsoever, but it would have a devastating impact on our economy.”
These policies include EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants. Power plants are the biggest source of carbon emissions in the United States. The agency’s rules on existing power plants are expected next month.
Rubio’s comment on Obama’s meteorological experience also confuses the difference between climate science and meteorology. Meteorology seeks to predict weather changes in the short term; climate science looks at long term fluctuations in weather and whether these fluctuations point to a long-term change in climate. Pres. Obama did talk to multiple meteorologists when the NCA was first released, however, as a way of promoting the report’s findings to the public.
Rubio’s comments also didn’t address the part of the National Climate Assessment that was most pertinent to his state — sea level rise. The NCA calls the Southeast “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise,” and points to Palm Coast, FL and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL as two of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the nation that are also most at threat from climate change.
“There is an imminent threat of increased inland flooding during heavy rain events in low-lying coastal areas such as southeast Florida, where just inches of sea level rise will impair the capacity of stormwater drainage systems to empty into the ocean,” the report reads. “Drainage problems are already being experienced in many locations during seasonal high tides, heavy rains, and storm surge events.”
Sen. Rubio’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his statements.