Scott can no longer be appropriately placed in the climate denial camp. Whereas in the past his position was unequivocal (in 2010 he told reporters he had “not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change”), more recently he has taken to dodging the question altogether.
In May of this year, Scott repeatedly answered questions on climate change with the refrain, “Well, I’m not a scientist.”
That’s what prompted ten Florida scientists to write the governor a letter. “We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change,” they wrote. “You responded that you are ‘not a scientist.’ We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state.”
To the governor’s credit, on Tuesday he allowed the scientists to do just that. Not so creditable is that he gave them all of half an hour to explain why southern Florida is on the verge of sinking under the Atlantic Ocean.
The scientists later admitted that they were frustrated by the time crunch, but they felt that they made the best case that they could given the circumstances. They began by explaining how ice cores mined from glaciers can reveal the temperature and atmospheric content of past centuries, and how higher concentrations of greenhouse gases correlate with higher temperatures.
Ben Kirtman, a professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami, explained that natural events like El Nino, volcanoes and solar irradiance are not enough to cause the weather extremes the planet is currently experiencing. He and his colleagues focused their talk on how man-made emissions influence global warming, and how that will lead to sea level rise and a disappearing southern Florida.
Now that Governor Rick Scott has been given his introductory course in climate change, perhaps he’s thinking a little differently on the subject. Maybe not. Either way, David Hastings of Eckerd University told reporters at the scene, “We’d be willing to try again.”