WASHINGTON -- Of all the states that stand to suffer from climate change, Florida is facing potentially the bleakest consequences. A New York Times report noted last week that global warming was already having an effect on everyday life, like leading to flooding on streets that never used to flood.
Meanwhile, a National Climate Assessment has named Miami as the city most vulnerable to damage from rising sea levels. While a Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact paper warned that water in the area could rise by as much as two feet by the year 2060.
On Sunday, one of the state's U.S. senators, Marco Rubio (R), was pressed about the general subject of climate change, and despite the warnings outlined above, he argued that there was nothing lawmakers could or should do to reverse the climate trends (whose origins he also questioned).
"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," Rubio said, according to excerpts released by ABC "This Week," "and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy."
"The fact is that these events that we're talking about are impacting us, because we built very expensive structures in Florida and other parts of the country near areas that are prone to hurricanes. We've had hurricanes in Florida forever. And the question is, what do we do about the fact that we have built expensive structures, real estate and population centers near those vulnerable areas?" he asked. "I have no problem with taking mitigation activity."
The transcript does not indicate what Rubio's "mitigation activity" would consist of, but his assessment that the laws currently being proposed to address climate change won't help, and will only hurt the economy, is at odds with his own history as a politician.
As the leader of the Florida House in 2008, Rubio helped pass a law directing the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop a carbon emissions capping system. He has since distanced himself from that vote, arguing that he never supported cap and trade, only the idea that the state should look into such a system. And when the system ultimately did not pass, he cheered its failure.
But those who worked on that bill in Florida have called him an opportunist and a flip-flopper on the topic.
"For Rubio to say that all along he knew it wouldn't really come to pass is illogical," Jay Liles of the Florida Wildlife Federation, who lobbied for the bill, told the Miami Herald in 2009. "He set the stage for (cap and trade) to happen."