The Miami Herald reported last week:
Speaking from Miami’s Emergency Operations Center in downtown, where the city’s senior public safety and political authorities will ride out Category 4 Hurricane Irma this weekend, [Republican] Mayor Tomás Regalado told the Miami Herald that he believes warming and rising seas are threatening South Florida’s immediate and long-term future.
“This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” said Regalado, who flew back to Miami from Argentina Friday morning to be in the city during the storm. “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”
The mayor is on firm scientific ground. Last year, Scientific American reported:
The Florida cities and counties grappling with the effects of climate change have been skillful at identifying issues they must address in the immediate future, said [Ben] Kirtman, the University of Miami scientist. He’s seeing a turning point from previous discussions, where there might have been “too much conversation about gloom and doom” and a focus on what will happen in 2100, instead of in people’s lifetimes.
“The sea level’s rising. It’s clear,” he said. “There’s no indication whatsoever in the next 25 years that that trend is going to change. There’s nothing. You can argue until you’re blue in the face whether it’s man or it’s because of natural cycles. But that doesn’t matter. So they have to deal with it. They recognize it.”
Let’s put it this way: If Republicans opposed building codes designed to withstand more intense hurricanes, they’d be run out of town the next time a hurricane ripped through town. If politicians in Louisiana, which between 1932 and 2010 “lost more than 1,800 square miles of coastland to a myriad of factors, including sea level rise, subsidence (land settling or sinking), and oil industry development,” did not support a master coastal plan to prevent literally losing their state, they’d be booted out as well. (That’s why the 2017 plan aimed at combatting the effects of rising sea levels passed the state legislature unanimously.)
And yet Republicans from Texas (both U.S. senators and a slew of congressmen), Florida (most especially Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio), Alabama and Louisiana, among other locales, refuse to acknowledge the clear cause of rising sea levels and temperatures that add to the destructiveness of hurricanes that devastate their states. The GOP pols like to dodge the question by saying they are not climate scientists — and then refuse to accept the findings of 97 percent of the scientific community. Bluntly put, they’d rather cling to their know-nothingism than take steps to abate a known danger to their states. How is that any different from refusing to build levees and pumps or update building standards? (Of course, the climate-change denier in chief did cancel a flood regulation that took account of global warming, something he should be asked about when he goes for his next photo op.)
Perhaps these lawmakers will never change their minds, given how afflicted they are with the tribalism of the GOP. Apparently, they have no future in a party if they think clearly and dispassionately about the subject. But the voters of the states they represent shouldn’t tolerate such recklessness. If Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) refused to vote for Harvey hurricane relief, he’d surely lose reelection in 2018, yet he plans to stand for reelection firmly opposed to the science and remedial action that could save lives and property. It’s remarkable that Cruz and others can look voters in the eye and refuse to take measures that would ameliorate their suffering and the suffering of generations to come.
In 2015, former secretary of state George Shultz reviewed a batch of data about warming waters, sea levels and melting snow caps and glaciers. He wrote: “These are simple and clear observations, so I conclude that the globe is warming and that carbon dioxide has something to do with that fact. Those who say otherwise will wind up being mugged by reality.” He reasoned, “We all know there are those who have doubts about the problems presented by climate change. But if these doubters are wrong, the evidence is clear that the consequences, while varied, will be mostly bad, some catastrophic.” So why not, he figured, take out an “insurance policy”? Move to clean energy, invest in more R&D and consider a carbon tax. And, I would add, return to the voluntary restrictions the United States agreed to as part of the Paris climate agreement. (It’s not as though coal is coming back, no matter what Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency does.)
It’s time we started treating climate-change denial as a menace to public safety. The voters in states most immediately affected by climate-change deniers’ recklessness and who bear the brunt of their representatives’ willful scientific illiteracy should give state and federal politicians a choice: Give up the climate-change denial, or make way for someone who will be willing to take out some “insurance” for the sake of future hurricane victims.