As climate change accelerates around us, Florida continues to ignore the problem. Not only does Governor Rick Scott deny that humans are making the Earth warmer and thus forever altering our planet at an unprecedented rate, he seems to be contributing to it.
Climate change is definitely happening and it’s definitely making life more miserable for everyone. We have been breaking heat records consistently for the last several months, and it can only get worse from here. July 2016 was officially the hottest month ever. Not the hottest month this year or this decade, but the hottest month in 136 years of recorded history. As a low-lying peninsula that is extremely prone to flooding and getting hit by hurricanes, Florida is at an unusually high risk of facing serious destruction if the Earth continues to get hotter.
Oppressive heat isn’t the only symptom of climate change, just the most obvious one. Climate change is linked to all kinds of extreme weather patterns that can disrupt ecosystems, ruin crops, and generally wreak havoc on our world. Hurricanes are getting stronger and more destructive, and warmer water means more storms forming outside of the regular June to November hurricane season. The devastating flooding sweeping Louisiana residents out of their homes last week, while not directly caused by climate change, is something we can expect to see more of in the future. Food shortages, animals becoming endangered, droughts, landslides, all of these things will start happening more in our immediate future because humans insist on continuing to f*** up our planet and ignore obvious evidence.
All the while, our elected leaders are bickering while Rome burns. Controversy erupted last year within one branch of our state government after it was alleged that Gov. Scott had banned usage of the terms “climate change and ‘global warming” in official government documents and correspondence. The department implicated in this was, of course, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Scott denied these claims and eventually the whole thing was forgotten. Go ahead and check out the FDEP website and look around for information about climate change or global warming. Hundreds of results come up when you search for those terms, but look closer and you will notice that almost every one of them was published prior to 2011, the year that Gov. Scott took office. What a fascinating coincidence.
Whatever the truth is about the banned terms, it is common knowledge that our governor has a history of denying climate change. Although in the beginning of his tenure as our governor, he would flat out say, “No,” when someone asked if he believed in climate change. Some people believed he had eased up a little on this firm denial in recent years. However, his definitive “no” merely morphed into a deflection of the topic entirely. His famous retort when questioned again in 2014, “I’m not a scientist,” gained a lot of traction among other leaders in the last few years. It’s a convenient way to get around having to actually take a stance for or against the idea of man-made climate change. However, the act of not taking a stance is in itself a stance. It’s a cop-out to say you aren’t a scientist, therefore you cannot agree or disagree with a scientific theory. That’s like saying you are unsure about the existence of gravity because you aren’t a scientist.
President Obama had the perfect response to this in a speech from 2015:
“I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe.”
If some people choose to ignore what is happening around them, that’s their prerogative. But they shouldn’t allow their poor understanding of key issues to have an effect on the rest of the world. We, the voters, need to take a closer look at our elected leaders and find out what it is that they truly believe in — regardless of simple party affiliation loyalties. Florida and all of its citizens are in real danger in the future if our state’s leaders continue fighting against science and nature in the name of making big corporations happy. We elect leaders whose primary job is to protect us and govern with our best interests in mind.
Climate denial, along with other things like changing environmental policies to please corporations, show the true intentions of our leaders. Florida recently eased up regulations controlling the amount of toxic chemicals that are allowed to be dumped into our waterways, and made it much easier for the environmentally destructive sugar cane industry to continue the devastation of our state’s fragile wetlands. Although there is not a direct link between climate change and purposely polluting our waterways, this is certainly strong evidence that some of our leaders don’t care about protecting our ecosystems. It sets a precedent for other rulings that can have negative consequences on our natural environment, and shows that if the state will allow these organizations to willfully ruin the environment, they won’t do a thing to stop anyone or anything else from contributing to the destruction.
Keeping our environment safe and habitable should be a number one priority, particularly in a state with such a unique and fragile ecosystem. Florida has a lot to lose when it comes to climate change. If our elected leaders do not care about safeguarding our environment, then they do not care about our well-being.