Not all of the Republican presidential candidates deny the existence of climate change. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for example, have both acknowledged it exists. But both of the presidential candidates continue to dismiss climate change as an important issue, a fact underscored in a recent report in the Tampa Bay Times.
“I don’t have a plan to influence the weather,” Rubio said last month at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. Bush said on the same day in New Hampshire, “It wouldn’t be on my first page of things that wake me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.”
What else do the candidates have to say about climate change? Back in July, Bush told Bloomberg BNA that “the climate is changing” and acknowledged that “human activity has contributed to it.” However, he called the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires reductions in carbon emissions from power plants, “irresponsible and ineffective.” In a statement on the Clean Power Plan, Bush said: “Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy.”
“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week” in 2014. “I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.” Rubio has also blasted the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. In a statement he said, “I will stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which, if enacted, would have a devastating impact on affordable energy in exchange for little to no environmental benefit.”
Florida is already experiencing climate change effects, with many more to come
While Bush and Rubio dismiss the importance of climate change, their home state of Florida experiences its impacts. Scientists have observed changes in the Sunshine State that are consistent with early climate change effects, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The changes include retreating and eroding shorelines, dying coral reefs, salt-water intrusion into the freshwater aquifer, increasing numbers of forest fires, and warmer air and sea-surface temperatures.
There are many more devastating climate change effects to come, the NRDC stated. Florida’s average temperature will likely rise between 4 degrees and 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. The summer heat index will likely increase by 8 to 15 degrees. It’s an increase the NRDC said “will be the most dramatic in the nation.” Sea levels could rise by eight inches to more than two feet by 2100.
Climate change will impact everything from freshwater supplies to the coastline to human health. The NRDC projects that coastal ecosystems, including tourist attractions such as the Everglades and coral reefs, will be harmed by sea-level rise, rising temperatures and rainfall alterations. Those projected changes will alter the state’s $45 billion to $50 billion annual revenue from tourism.
Climate change will impact every U.S. region
Florida is not the only region to be impacted by climate change. Every region in the U.S. is already feeling it and will only see more. “Climate-related impacts are occurring across regions of the country and across many sectors of our economy,” the EPA stated on its website.
Take the Southeast, where Florida is located. The majority of states in the Southeast are along 29,000 miles of coastline on either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Climate change is causing temperature increases in this region. The average annual temperatures since 1970 have increased by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and temperatures are projected to increase by 4 to 8 degrees by the end of the century. Hurricane activity and heavy rainfall have also increased in the Southeast, and sea-level rise is occurring.
Consider also the Southwest, which the EPA calls “the hottest and driest region in the nation.” The region is home to about 56 million people, and 90 percent live in cities. The population of the Southwest is expected to increase by almost 70 percent by mid-century. One state in the region, California, has experienced four years of drought. Snowpack in California is important as it accounts for a third of the state’s water supply. California farmers grow half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts. Less water means less crops.
Democratic candidates offer sharp contrast on climate change
Democratic candidates not only believe climate change is real, but also have plans to deal with it. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recently said, “This planet and its people are in trouble.” He warned that “unless we get our act together, we will see in years to come more droughts, more floods and more extreme weather disturbances.”
Sanders also cited his plan to “reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 by putting a tax on carbon and making aggressive investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that as president she would “make combating climate change a top priority from day one, and secure America’s future as the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.” Her plan to deal with climate change includes expanding the amount of installed solar capacity to 140 gigawatts by the end of 2020, which is a 700 percent increase from current levels.
Come November, Americans will cast their ballots and decide who will become the next president. Their decision will decide whether the U.S. deals with climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions or puts the issue on the back burner.
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