Governor Rick Scott will be running for his next term against former governor Charlie Crist. Crist, unlike Scott, was an environmental advocate even when he was a Republican. Now Crist is running on the Democratic ticket, and he wants his job back.
Opinion polls show that climate change is foremost in Floridians minds. It’s not surprising. Over the last few years, increased floods, more extreme weather and a slowly rising sea level have convinced many residents that their state needs a comprehensive climate action plan.
Charlie Crist served as Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011. In that time, he established mandates for renewable energy, programs to cut greenhouse gas emissions and made climate adaptation a major priority.
In his first term, Scott did his best to steamroll these initiatives. He has remained cagey about his views on climate change, telling reporters in recent months only that he’s “not a scientist” and unqualified to offer his opinion on the subject. That’s why it was so surprising when he accepted 10 climate scientists’ offer to sit down and learn about how climate change is endangering his state – even if he did give them only half an hour to do it.
But the meeting was a major disappointment. As InsideClimateNews’ Katherine Bagley summed it up, “Scott spent 10 of the allotted 30 minutes on small talk, ended the meeting a few minutes early and left without asking a single question.”
Crist is most definitely making the environment a key plank in his campaign, and Tom Steyer’s super PAC, NextGen Climate, is offering him its full support (and several million dollars).
Rick Scott now has a difficult choice to make. Despite the Republican party’s steadfast refusal to admit climate change is largely affected by human emissions, Florida’s voters are not so sure. If Scott gives in, he may win some votes but he could also lose the support of his party.
“He’s caught in the crosshairs,” said Frank Jackalone, the senior organizing manager for the Florida Sierra Club.
This year, political races throughout the U.S. are putting many politicians in the same compromising position.