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Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio, climate change policy needs more than “adaptation”

Rising sea levels and coastal flooding are only part of the problem.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made some good points about climate change in an op-ed he wrote for USA Today. This conservative Republican conceded that climate change is real.

I may have to fan myself.

“I can tell you Florida will be forced to continue making adjustments in the coming decades because of the changing climate. Trend lines suggest sunny day flooding will become increasingly common as local sea levels rise from a variety of causes,” he wrote.

“As a result, some researchers predict that the 30-year mortgage will die out in low-lying parts of our state.”

That’s when he rolled out the words “proactive adaptation.”

It’s a misdirection play.

Rubio focused on how climate change is affecting coastal areas of Florida and the Everglades. True, it’s hard to overstate the severity of that problem. Rising sea levels are a grave threat to Florida’s coastal communities, agriculture, and water supply.

But Rubio couldn’t stop there, could he? He dismissed scientists and climate experts as “global elites and American leftists.” That’s is a Republican talking point, but it’s not a strategy. It’s a dodge, and Rubio’s political party is adept at that.

Recently, U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, who represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District, jumped into the fray. He said on WFLA TV, “I do not” when asked if he believes humans are contributing to climate change.

“I don’t think there is sufficient evidence to show that,” Spano said.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat who is Chair of the Select Committee on Climate Crisis, responded with a withering Twitter rebuke of Spano that involved 12 tweets.

“Hillsborough and Polk Counties in #FL are going to be some of the hardest hit by the climate crisis. We need #ClimateActionNow to avoid the worst impacts,” she wrote

So, about adaptation being the solution? Let’s examine that.

Rising sea levels and coastal flooding are only part of the problem.

Ask the people in Panama City how they “adapted” after Hurricane Michael. That storm blew their world apart last October with winds of 161 miles per hour, and they have recovered yet.

The National Hurricane Center said there have 34 Category 5 hurricanes (at least 157 mph) since 1924.  Twelve of those have come since 2003, including four in the last three years.

Michael jumped from a Category 2 to 4 (later upgraded to 5) virtually overnight. Water in the Gulf of Mexico was about five degrees higher than normal for October. Think of that as steroids for hurricanes.

Florida also has had a run of record high temperatures. In May, for instance, the average temperature was 78.8 degrees in the state. That was the hottest May since they started keeping records in 1895.

July was the hottest month in human history.

Scientists say a significant increase in greenhouse gases the root cause of climate change. And how did the amount of gas increase?

“On Earth, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Climate Center at Florida State University noted the need to develop “adaptation strategies.”

There’s that word again: adaptation.

Yes, Florida needs a proactive adaptation strategy for climate change, but it also needs a whole lot more than what Rubio believes.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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