Back in 2010, the Tampa Bay Times asked Governor Rick Scott if he believed in climate change. Unsurprisingly, he said no. I’m not sure which is more infuriating: his tort*** response, or the interviewer’s question, which implies that scientific fact is a topic of debate. Climate change is NOT a matter of belief, and public officials and citizens alike must stop treating it as such.
When asked about climate change again in 2014, Governor Scott weighed in with a snarky “Well, I’m not a scientist,”as if there aren’t scientists able and willing to give input on the issue. Let’s bear in mind that this information isn’t top secret, nor is it complicated to understand.
Under a gag order from Governor Rick Scott, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection cannot use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official capacity. This, coming from the U.S. state most threatened by rising sea levels.
The Southeast Florida Climate Compact has predicted that sea levels in Miami may rise by as much as 22 inches by 2060. Although older generations may disregard these forecasts, my generation is not so privileged.
Sometime around 2060, I’ll be nearing the end of my career. I’ve always wanted to retire to a beachfront property, but not like this. Climate change is nothing new– there were ice ages before us and there will certainly be ice ages after us. However, recent human activity has altered the environment in drastic ways that have sped up these climatic changes.
The current fear of climate change is driven by the unsustainable pace at which it’s occurring. Our world is not built to survive these shifts– especially in areas such as Miami Beach, where streets regularly flood with afternoon rain. Unless we take a strong stance against politicians who reject scientific fact in favor of personal interests, it’ll progress at an even quicker rate.
Governor Scott is heavily funded by the Koch brothers, who publicly deny climate change and vehemently oppose environmental regulations on business. The Koch family fortune, derived from the oil and gas industry, is very clearly a benefactor of climate change denial.
The Koch brothers are also thought to have played a large role in Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement. He may not have needed much persuading, given that he once declared climate change to be a hoax invented by the Chinese.
Both of these government figures were elected by constituents to represent their best interests in the long-run. Denying climate change is not only ignorant, but harmful to those who are most vulnerable to its inevitable impact. It bears repeating that climate change is based on extensive scientific evidence and is not, in any way, rooted in opinion or belief.
This week, I spoke to up-and-coming journalist Mario Ariza, who has written on the topic of climate change extensively. He discussed some proposed infrastructural designs that would raise Miami’s elevation and pump water away from the shores in order to reduce flooding due to rising sea level. When asked if such multi-billion dollar investments would be sufficient in the long-run, Ariza responded, “No, but it’ll buy us time”.
Whether or not our public officials decide to invest in plugs that’ll temporarily halt the flooding, it is their public duty to keep their constituents informed. Denying climate change because it might crash oil investments is not only irresponsible, but should be considered tort in the court of law. In light of the first amendment, does it seem extreme to consider any statement illegal? Perhaps.
But when Florida could have as many as 1 million misinformed– and therefore unprepared– residents-turned-environmental refugees by 2100, it’s something to seriously consider.
***Tort, as defined by the law, is a civil wrong that unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act