California And Florida Governors Duel On Climate Denial

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICH PEDRONCELLI, FILE
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICH PEDRONCELLI, FILE

When it comes to climate change — and climate-denying politicians — California Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t mince words.

Brown sent a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott Monday, in time for Scott’s visit to California — a trip in which Scott aims to convince West Coast businesses to consider moving to Florida. But Brown had some business advice of his own for Scott, who’s long been known for his climate-denying, anti-clean energy record.

“If you’re truly serious about Florida’s economic wellbeing, it’s time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change — two words you won’t even let state officials say,” Brown wrote in the letter. “The threat is real and so too will be the devastating impacts.”

Brown isn’t exaggerating. Last year, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published a story that claimed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had unofficially censored its employees from saying the words “climate change” and “global warming” in official communications. The DEP has denied the claims, but some Florida scientists weren’t surprised by the report.

“The first thing they said to me was, ‘Oh we’re not allowed to talk about that,’” Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami, told ThinkProgress last year of a meeting in which he brought up climate change with employees of a Florida agency.

Florida’s Climate Denial Could Cause Catastrophic RecessionGov. Rick Scott (R-FL) barred state officials from using the term “climate change.” making Florida the butt of…thinkprogress.orgBrown linked to a report from the Risky Business Project in the letter, quoting the report as finding that “Florida faces more risk than any other state that private, insurable property could be inundated by high tide, storm surge and sea level rise.” Indeed, South Florida in particular has been called “ground zero” for sea level rise, and with about 75 percent of South Florida residents living on the coasts, finding a way to curb rising seas has become a dire issue — at least for county and city governments in the region, which have teamed together to find ways to track, mitigate, and prepare for sea level rise.

Still, these local governments have said that they need the state’s support if they’re going to seriously address sea level rise. And so far, they haven’t gotten it. Florida, in fact, is one of the states that have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s major effort to reduce emissions from power plants across the country. Parts of Florida have put their support behind the plan, however — Broward County, located in southeast Florida, and the city of South Miami have joined a motion to intervene in defense of the EPA’s plan.

Scott said in 2010 that he hasn’t “been convinced” that climate change is happening. A few years later, he dodged the question, saying only that he’s “not a scientist.” Brown, who heads a state that’s long been a leader in climate action, hopes Scott’s visit to California will help him change his tune.

“While you’re enjoying a stroll on one of California’s beautiful beaches this week, don’t stick your head in the sand,” Brown wrote. “Take a few minutes to read the rest of this report. There’s no time to waste.”

Scott hasn’t yet responded to Brown, but he may be planning to this week, according to Huffington Post.