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Marco Rubio Is In Denial, But Man-Made Climate Change Is All Around Us

Two years ago, when Marco Rubio was asked about how old the earth was, the Republican Senator from Florida punted: “I’m not a scientist, man.”

Apparently Rubio, a potential Republican candidate for President in 2016, was feeling more confident with his credentials this Sunday. The recent National Climate Assessment (NCA) once again confirmed that climate change is here now and it is up to us how much worse it will get. Rubio, however, offered his own alternative opinion:

I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take 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.

And today, when pressed on his climate denialism (which he shares with the majority of Republicans in Congress), Rubio couldn’t name a single source that shares his climate views.

On the flip side, the 300 climate scientists and experts who authored the lengthy Assessment do have evidence of how man-made climate change is affecting diverse regions in America right now. Here’s a glimpse of those regional impacts, drawing from exhaustive reporting done by Climate Progress after the report’s release last week.

The Southeast is “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes, and decreased water availability,” according to the National Climate Assessment. And as Jennifer Jurado, Director of the Natural Resources Planning and Management Division in Broward County, Florida, puts it, many of these impacts are already being felt: “It’s not just coincidence — we really are seeing these things taking place.” The region has already experienced more billion-dollar disasters in the past 30 years than the rest of the country combined.

Temperatures in the Midwest have already risen over 1.5°F from 1900 to 2010, with the increase speeding up in the last 30 years. That means crop reductions, as warmer temperatures cause lower yields. It means more droughts, heavier rains, and more heat waves. And it even threatens the Great Lakes, whose water levels have fallen significantly over the last decade or two. Dozens of communities along Michigan’s shoreline had to be dredged in 2013 to keep shipping lanes open. This climate change impact caused economic losses.

The Northeast quickly became familiar with the threat posed by sea level rise in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which caused up to $80 billion in damage. But the East Coast faces not just sea level rise, but also flooding from the skies. The region has experienced a greater recent increase in extreme precipitation — 71 percent — than any other region of the United States. Only the Midwest even comes close, with a 37 percent increase in extreme precipitation events.

Ocean acidification and wildfires are taking their toll on the Pacific Northwest. Ocean waters in Willapa Bay, for example, have become so acidic that one company can’t grow oyster larvae off the coast of Washington anymore. Meanwhile, Oregon experienced one of the worst fire seasons since 1951 last year: wildfires burned through 100,000 state-protected acres and cost the state $122 million in firefighting costs alone.

Great Plains: The second-most severe category of drought now covers almost half of Kansas, pushing outward from Oklahoma and Texas. This week a brutal heatwave sent temperatures over 100 degrees, putting a major strain on utilities and threatening to devastate this year’s wheat crop. And according to the National Climate Assessment, even in an optimistic scenario where we cut back on carbon emissions, those in the Great Plans should expect significantly more drought and water scarcity in the next 50 to 100 years.

As its population surges, the harsh climate of the Southwest will only get harsher. “Just think of this year’s California drought — the type of hot, snowless, severe drought that we expect more of in the future,” said Gregg Garfin, a lead author of the Southwest portion of the National Climate Assessment and assistant professor of climate, natural resources, and policy at the University of Arizona. That’s the kind of change that could have a tremendous impact on not only the availability of water for nearly 100 million people, but also on a critical part of the economy, agriculture.

BOTTOM LINE: Conservatives like Marco Rubio may be in denial when it comes to climate science, but changes to our climate are real, and humans play a major role by burning fossil fuels. And no matter what region of the country, the negative effects are already hurting our economy. Reducing carbon pollution and investing in clean energy are essential steps to restrain future damages.

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