Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) reinforced his support for fossil fuels and his opposition to slashing carbon emissions, saying climate policy will hurt jobs, as he faced Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in a debate Monday.
“If in fact sea levels are rising… we should spend money to mitigate that,” he said, but added that “as a policy maker, you have to show me whether the laws you want me to pass will actually impact the issue that you are raising. I have people that come to me and say: we want you to pass these laws on carbon emissions, and I ask them, well how many inches of sea rise will it prevent?”
Miami, Rubio’s hometown, has been suffering from flooding as sea level rise, linked to the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change, continues. In fact, storm surges and higher tidal flows worsened by climate change could gobble 30 percent of Miami houses in the next 75 years, according to a recent study.
Florida is also one of the U.S. states most at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather events associated with climate change. Researchers have long maintained that reducing the effects of climate change hinges on the amount of emissions humans manage to curb. “It is virtually certain that global mean sea level rise will continue for many centuries beyond 2100, with the amount of rise dependent on future emissions,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2013.
Yet during Monday’s debate Rubio said he opposes curbing emissions laws as economists tell him that emission rules will “destroy” jobs and increase the cost of living “dramatically” without really affecting the environment.
Since the Clean Air Act, the most influential U.S. environmental rule to date, was passed in the 1970s, emissions of the six most common pollutants have declined around 70 percent in the United States as the U.S. economy expanded, and energy use increased, according to an EPA report released in July. This suggests that wide-reaching environmental laws often vilified as jobs killers do work without long-term economical implications.
Polls show Rubio now leading Rep. Patrick Murphy by nearly 5 points, though candidates have another debate due before the election. Murphy, who supports acting on climate change, has been lacking name recognition among a major portion of likely voters, the Miami Herald reported.
Opinion polls also show the environment as a growing issue for Floridians this election. A recent University of South Florida and Nielsen poll found that the environment is the second most important issue for Florida voters. Only the economy and jobs ranks higher.
Still, a week after Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton dedicated a full speech to climate change, the almost hour-long Senate debate featured the issue for less than five minutes, with Rubio managing to avoid even saying climate change during his comments.