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Jeb Bush: A Climate Denier By Any Other Name Is Still a Climate Denier

06/16/2015 04:50 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2016

Former Governor Jeb Bush made it official: he finally announced he is running for president. In his speech and media appearances, he declared it's time for solutions.  "We can fix the problems that people think are intractable. With leadership we can move forward again. We can be the greatest country on the face of the Earth again."

Does this focus on solving tough challenges mean Bush will tackle the climate crisis? Not likely.

He dodges around the science and refuses to offer a single plan. This bobbing and weaving may leave some GOP heads spinning. Conservatives will want more forthright climate denial, while the half of all Republicans who favor government limits on carbon pollution support acting on climate.

Bush ironically launched his presidential campaign from Miami, a coastal city already being hit hard by climate change. Sea levels in Miami have risen nearly 1 foot in the past century. Miami Beach has to spend $400 million on new pumping systems to keep ocean waters from swamping overburden sewers. The nearby city of Hallandale Beach had to stop using six of its eight drinking water wells after they were infiltrated by saltwater. According to Swiss Re, southeast Florida's economy could be hit by $33 billion in damages from climate change in the next 15 years.

Jeb Bush, meanwhile, seems to have his head buried in the sand of one of those Florida beaches.

He has said recently that he is "concerned" about climate change. Yet in New Hampshire last month, he attacked the science: "The climate is changing. I don't think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It's convoluted. And for people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you."

In my view, arrogance is when 97 out of 100 experts identify a problem and you say, "I know better." A full 97 percent of scientists agree that the climate is changing and human activity is causing it. Bush can characterize this as convoluted, but the facts don't budge.

Bush seems to be testing out a variety of positions. One minute he questions the evidence, the next he calls for grounding environmentalism in faith and morality -- an interesting gambit considering the head of his church is about to release a Papal Encyclical pronouncing climate action as a moral duty.

Bush entered the GOP presidential race late and stepped onto a crowded field. Perhaps he is trying to distinguish himself from the far right and the super far right candidates by striking a seemingly more moderate tone.

But here is the hard truth: If you say the climate is changing but fail to acknowledge the role of human activity, then you are still a climate denier. And if you acknowledge the science of climate change, but fail to declare how America should deal with it, then you are still a climate denier. For inaction in the face of grave danger is another form of denial.

Imagine if the Greatest Generation had said fascism is a threat, but we aren't going to do anything about it. Or if President George W Bush, President Obama and the nation's leading economists had said the Great Recession is real, but we don't have to respond. Democrats and Republicans continue to disagree about which policies saved our nation from the brink of economic collapse, but at least they did something.

Candidate Bush says he wants to solve the tough challenges. We await his climate action plan.