10 Scientists Want to Educate Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Climate Change
The "I'm not a scientist" excuse won't fly with this group.
Ten scientists signed a letter addressed to Florida Gov. Rick Scott this week in hopes that he will meet with them to learn about climate change and its impact on their state. The scientists are professors of oceanography, environmental and atmospheric sciences and more at various universities in the state, including Miami, Florida State, Florida International and Eckerd College, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
"Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern," the scientists wrote. "This is not a hypothetical. Thousands of scientists have studied the issue from a variety of angles and disciplines over many decades.
"Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists—seekers of evidence and explanations."
While direct, the letter doesn't attack Scott for what he doesn't know. As one of the scientists, Jeff Chanton of Florida State University, told the Times, "this is about the continued comfort and amiability of civilization, or human beings. I just want him to understand what the situation is—and put it in a historical, million-year context, about what the greenhouse gas history is."
His response will be important for his political career as well as the environment. In November, Scott faces former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is known for his climate policies, though state legislators have repealed most of them. Crist attends and speaks at events like this year's Solar Uprising Rally, which was presented by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
View the letter's full text and signees on the next page.
Dear Governor Scott:
We respectfully request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the current and future impact of human-induced global warming on Florida. As scientists, we believe such information is vital given the threat posed by climate change. There is a clear need to develop a state plan to both mitigate and adapt to the threats to Florida's communities, businesses, tourism industry and protect the state's economic well being.
We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change. You responded that you were "not a scientist." We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.
We welcome the chance to present you with the latest climate science. Our hope is this will inform you as you consider Florida's plan for meeting the recently announced carbon pollution standards from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each state will be called on to implement reductions with Florida's carbon intensity rate reduction target of 38 percent by 2030, from 2012 levels.
We will also respond to any questions you might have regarding the recent National Climate Assessment (NCA) and any adaptation planning decisions you may be considering. That report, as you may be aware, concluded that climate change "is already affecting the American people in far-reaching ways." This includes more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events, more acidic oceans and rising sea levels. The report further found "unambiguous" evidence that human activities—the burning of fossil fuels, the clearing of forests—are the cause. The NCA also found we are "exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events and decreased water availability" caused by climate change, with "residents in some areas such as Miami Beach [already] experiencing seawater flooding their streets."
In short, Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern.
This is not a hypothetical. Thousands of scientists have studied the issue from a variety of angles and disciplines over many decades. Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists—seekers of evidence and explanations. As a result, we feel uniquely qualified to assist you in understanding what's already happening in the climate system so you may make the most effective decisions about what must be done to protect the state, including reducing emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants.
It is crucial for policymakers, such as yourself, to have a full understanding of the current and future threats to Florida. Most importantly, you should have a detailed understanding of the specific climate change impacts already affecting Florida to help you formulate the optimal plans for mitigating future impacts, while simultaneously preparing Florida's communities and businesses for the changes already underway and almost certain to accelerate in coming years.
We look forward to meeting with you and await your response.
Andrew Bakun, Professor of Marine Ecosystems and Society, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
Kenny Broad, Professor and Chair, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
Jeff Chanton, Professor, The John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University
David Hastings, Professor of Marine Science & Chemistry, Galbraith Marine Science Laboratory, Eckerd College
Ben Kirtman, Professor, Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Rosensteil School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, Program Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Center for Computational Science, University of Miami
Thomas J. Morgan Ph.D., Assistant in Medicine, College of Medicine, Florida State University
John Parker, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Science and Chemistry, Florida International University
Brian Soden, Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
John Van Leer, Associate Professor, Department of Ocean Sciences, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
Harold Wanless, Chairman and Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Miami
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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