Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been mostly mum on the threat his state faces from sea level rise during this year’s gubernatorial race, but according to a Tampa Bay Times story, sea level rise could hit the governor a lot closer to home than he might think.
Gov. Scott’s beachfront property is in the path of sea level rise projections in the state, putting the governor in “one of the most vulnerable positions” in regards to rising waters, the Times reports. The governor’s $9.2 million Naples mansion sits about 200 feet away from the ocean and a foot above sea level, and the sea on his stretch of beach has risen about 8 or 9 inches over the last century. That rate is in line with other parts of South Florida — a tide gauge in Key West has documented a rise in sea level of 9 inches over the last century, an increase that’s led to flooding, both after rains and when the sun is shining. And Gov. Scott’s home isn’t the only one in his area at risk: a 2012 report found that sea level rise will triple the chance of a storm surge that would put more than 11,000 homes in Naples at risk of flooding by 2030.
Still, the Tampa Bay Times reports, when asked last week about whether he thinks sea level rise is a threat to his home, Scott said no.
“I’m not a scientist but I can tell you what, we’re going to make sure we continue to make the right investments in the state to take care of our environment,” Scott said. “We love living here.”
The White House’s National Climate Assessment called the Southeast, including Florida, “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise.” South Florida is particularly vulnerable because the region is low-lying with a porous foundation, making contamination of water supplies through saltwater intrusion, along with the “imminent threat of increased inland flooding during heavy rain events,” a major concern.
But it’s the increased strength of storm surges that will pose the most risk to Scott’s property, Jim Beever of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council told the Tampa Bay Times. Water will be pushed in toward his house from the Gulf of Mexico, and the road in front of his house would likely flood first, since it’s at a lower elevation than the house.
“Belief in climate change is optional, but participation is mandatory,” Beever said.
Scott hasn’t been vocal in addressing sea level rise since the National Climate Assessment came out — earlier this month, he denied requests from the New York Times to be interviewed on the subject, but told WPBF there was “absolutely” work being done on the state level to protect Florida from the effects of climate change. Scott said the state’s Division of Emergency Management has spent $130 million on flood protection around Florida’s coast. The Governor’s office later confirmed the governor’s words in a statement, saying Scott has “worked with the Division of Emergency Management to ensure our communities have the resources they need to protect families from flooding.” In 2010, Scott said he had “not been convinced” that the climate was changing.
The Tampa Bay Times’ story comes about a week after Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) made multiple statements casting doubt on the existence of man-made climate change. Last week, Rubio said the Earth’s climate is “always changing” and said people advocating for taking action on climate change have taken “a handful of decades of research and — and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activity.” His comments came a few days after he questioned whether efforts undertaken by the Obama administration to mitigate climate change would work, and a few days before he failed to name a single source when asked what reports or studies he’d been relying on to inform his opinions on climate change.
Gov. Scott’s office did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.