Chances are pretty good that within less than a hundred years, the place where I’m sitting right now will either be under water or right on the edge of the ocean.
I live about a quarter of a mile from the Atlantic Ocean in a suburb south of Miami. According to overwhelming scientific evidence, this entire area will become submerged due the rising ocean because of climate change. It’s not just speculation; it’s a fact and signs are already being seen in some of the more vulnerable coastal areas like Miami Beach.
The question isn’t just what can be done about it; it’s more fundamental than that. It’s getting people to acknowledge that it’s happening. The scary thing about that is that there are people who appear to be otherwise intelligent enough to grasp the reality but refuse to do so because of political pressure or sheer denialism.
Most of Florida’s senior politicians – in particular, Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and current governor Rick Scott, all Republican climate-change deniers – have refused to act or respond to warnings of people like Wanless or Harlem or to give media interviews to explain their stance, though Rubio, a Republican party star and a possible 2016 presidential contender, has made his views clear in speeches. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” he said recently. Miami is in denial in every sense, it would seem. Or as Wanless puts it: “People are simply sticking their heads in the sand. It is mind-boggling.”
Not surprisingly, Rubio’s insistence that his state is no danger from climate change has brought him into conflict with local people. Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, has a particularly succinct view of the man and his stance. “Rubio is an idiot,” says Stoddard. “He says he is not a scientist so he doesn’t have a view about climate change and sea-level rise and so won’t do anything about it. Yet Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, is holding field hearings where scientists can tell people what the data means. Unfortunately, not enough people follow his example. And all the time, the waters are rising.”
Mayor Stoddard’s pithy statement regarding Mr. Rubio’s denial of climate change captured a few headlines, but it points out the most troubling aspect of this situation. It’s not that Mr. Rubio has a disagreement with the evidence or the conclusions reached. He’s already made it quite clear that he’s not a scientist. His problem is that he doesn’t believe in the overall concept that the climate is actually changing in spite of overwhelming evidence. He’s provided no proof to back up his claim; he’s just not a believer, and even if he did believe it, nothing we can do can stop it.
That is a view that is meant to end the discussion, not carry it forward or find remedy. It’s the equivalent of slamming the door shut, and thereby proving Mayor Stoddard’s point.
Marco Rubio plans to run for president, either in 2016 or 2020. The idea of having someone in a leadership role who simply refuses to acknowledge reality should be enough to put an end to that kind of ambition by voters who would rather not have to swim to the polls.