Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio, climate change policy needs more than “adaptation”
Hurricane Michael damage to Mexico Beach. Image via Getty.

Recovery Efforts Continue In Hurricane-Ravaged Florida Panhandle
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.

Joe Henderson

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.


  • Sandy Oestreich

    August 21, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Oh, shucks, your title gave me misbegotten hope, hope that the earlier so-lauded Rubio was seemingly getting off the Kool-Aid Express on climate change that’s engulfing us all, everywhere.

    But, No. Rubio is back, clinging to trump and his sad devotees.

  • Ray Blacklidge

    August 21, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    OK, I take back the nice things I said about Joe Henderson. A Journalist would not have written an article with such bias and intentional misleading statements. First off lets get something out of the way. Earth’s Climate Changes. We have 100% proof because we are no longer in the Ice Age. Humans effect climate, the question is to what extent. The Earth’s climate would change with or without us. To bring up Hurricanes as an example is silly, especially since this August may make history by not producing a named storm for the first time in recorded history. Shall we now claim there isn’t climate change because there are less hurricanes? No and the same is true on the authors ridiculous example of more and stronger hurricanes. Next Joe breaks the Journalist rule by stating “July was the hottest month in human history.” That statement is misleading at it’s best and a lie at its worst. Humans haven’t been recording temperatures all our history. The science we use to guess at past temperatures isn’t sophisticated enough to rely upon to make such an outlandish statement. Humans are great at adaption and its much easier to be proactive in adaptation then to have to adapt post changes. So Joe stop your whimpering and lets all work together instead of printing articles that are made to be divisive. Together we can accomplish almost anything! 🙂 My two bits

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704