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Florida scientists pen letter to Wilbur Ross — calling him to defend Florida’s coastline

A group of Florida scientists have an urgent message for Wilbur Ross: Support science and defend Florida’s coastline, as it could save your own home.

Ross, Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Commerce, has owned a $22 million, 15,500-square-foot Palm Beach mansion on the Intracoastal Waterway since 2008.

“In your new role as the Secretary of Commerce, you have a unique ability to influence multiple sectors of our economy,” goes the letter, signed by 13 officials, including 11 professors from Florida universities.

“You will direct scientific research both within government, and at universities through NOAA. You can also work with businesses, engineers, and industries to develop solutions to address climate and energy challenges.”

The letter is signed by some of the same 25 scientists who penned a similar letter to Trump October, shortly before his upset victory in November, urging him to act on climate change. They did not receive a response. Nor did they hear anything back from the president-elect after following up with a letter signed by approximately 10 university professors, as well as a physical oceanographer from NOAA in late December.

Another letter penned to Gov. Scott in 2014 resulted in a meeting with five climate scientists meeting during that (election) year, where they attempted to persuade the governor that human-induced climate change is very real, and a threat to Florida’s economy.

As the scientists note in their letter, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is housed in the Department of Commerce. That agency’s mission is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.”

Ross’ confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee takes place Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m.

The scientists’ letter points out that if action is not taken, seas could rise by as much as 2 feet by 2060, and up to 6 feet or more by 2100.

“You have an incredible opportunity to be a steward who will help restructure America’s energy problems, and turn our climate crisis into another American success story,” the scientists write in their letter. “We want to emphasize the magnitude of the problem — the future of Florida hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher. You are in a critical position to support sound science and solutions that can help America solve this problem. We implore you to recognize the urgency of climate change, and take your new position with great humility and the same dedication and tenacity you have shown throughout your career.”

Read the letter below:

Jan. 17, 2017

Mr. Wilbur Ross

Invesco Global Headquarters

Two Peachtree Pointe
1555 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 1800
Atlanta, Georgia 30309

Dear Mr. Wilbur Ross,

Congratulations on your nomination. You have a distinguished career and now you are presented with the opportunity to become the next Secretary of Commerce — a position with enormous influence on American society.

We are a group of Florida scientists, many of whom work daily with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); one of the agencies you will be in charge of at the Commerce Department.

Like you, we share an affinity for Florida. As a Florida resident, you know how precious the coastline is, and the fragile beauty of our state.

You are known for your problem-solving skills, and your ability to salvage distressed businesses. We were struck by a statement you made in your CNBC interview where you said, “the solutions are always more fun than identifying problems. We’re basically optimists even though we’re dealing with situations that have a lot of pessimism.”

Like you, climate scientists are facing a distressing situation as we study the projected impacts of sea level rise. However, we remain optimistic that our challenges can be solved with American ingenuity, entrepreneurship, strategy and new technologies.

We encourage you to use your exceptional problem-solving skills to look closely at the intersection between our changing climate, our economy, agriculture, industry, jobs and human health.

The Commerce Department defines part of its mission as “work[ing] with businesses, universities, communities, and the Nation’s workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans.”

In your new role as the Secretary of Commerce, you have a unique ability to influence multiple sectors of our economy. You will direct scientific research both within government, and at universities through NOAA. You can also work with businesses, engineers, and industries to develop solutions to address climate and energy challenges.

We call on you to:

Protect our coastline.

Florida has over 1,100 miles of coastline, a portion of which you are intimately familiar with, and surely appreciate. Current forecasts predict up to 6 feet of sea level rise in the next century. Under a worst-case scenario, we could see 2 feet of sea level rise by 2060. And while that may seem like a distant threat, right now with king tides there can be “sunny day flooding” in coastal states.

In order to protect our coastlines, it is crucial to continue the monitoring and projection of future environmental changes in the atmosphere and the ocean. None of this research can happen without adequate funding. We must prioritize research funding in the direction of climate change studies, especially in the context of sea level rise. Vital observations and research into phenomena affecting climate change impacts, such as variations in the ocean circulation that can, and already are, increasing sea level rise along our coastline must be maintained.

Support robust science.

The same way that you evaluate companies before you purchase them, scientists are learning about our climate, our weather, our oceans and our coast, so that policymakers can make informed decisions. We echo The Union of Concerned Scientists’ call for a strong and open culture of science and believe in adhering to high standards of scientific integrity and independence. You know from experience the role of in-depth research in executing a successful strategy, and so you should appreciate the value that scientists bring to the table to understand the impacts that change in our natural world will have on human systems — our ports, our coastal properties and our weather patterns.

Embrace clean technology.

As the Secretary of Commerce, you can help put America at the forefront of scientific research, and position us as leaders in the international competition for clean technology development.

We know many of your investments have been in traditional industries like coal and steel, but we encourage you to learn as much as you can about new energy technologies. Embrace clean energy solutions not only to address our energy needs but to create good paying jobs in our communities.

The Department of Commerce encompasses much more than just NOAA, but we want to make a heartfelt plea to you to understand how incredibly important NOAA’s contribution to society is. NOAA states on its website that it “enriches life through science.” NOAA’s mission is “Science, Service and Stewardship.”

You have an incredible opportunity to be a steward who will help restructure America’s energy problems, and turn our climate crisis into another American success story.

We want to emphasize the magnitude of the problem — the future of Florida hangs in the balance. The stakes could not be higher.

You are in a critical position to support sound science and solutions that can help America solve this problem. We implore you to recognize the urgency of climate change, and take your new position with great humility and the same dedication and tenacity you have shown throughout your career.

Thank you, and good luck on your nomination hearing.

Sincerely,

Senthold Asseng, Professor

Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

University of Florida

***

Keren Bolter, Research Affiliate

Center for Environmental Studies

Florida Atlantic University

***

Jeff Chanton, Professor

The John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

***

David B. Enfield (ret. 2015)

Dept. of Physical Oceanography

NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory

***

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D., Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

***

David Hastings, Professor

Marine Science and Chemistry

Eckerd College

***

Barry Heimlich, Vice Chair

Climate Change Task Force

Broward County

***

Ben Kirtman, Professor

Department of Atmospheric Science

Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

University of Miami

***

John H. Parker, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Environmental Science

Department of Earth and Environment

Florida International University

***

Randall W. Parkinson, Ph.D., P.G., Research Faculty Affiliate

Institute for Water and Environment

Florida International University

***

Brad E. Rosenheim, Ph.D., Associate Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

***

Philip Stoddard, Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

Florida International University

Mayor of South Miami

***

Harold R. Wanless, Professor and Chair

Department of Geological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences

University of Miami

***

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are strictly those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of their respective organization.

 

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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