MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In an Op-Ed published this week in USA Today, Senator Marco Rubio dismissed the climate change fanaticism of the “global elites and American leftists.”

“The world is not going to end in 12 years as some climate alarmists claim,” he wrote, “but I can tell you Florida will be forced to continue making adjustments in the coming decades because of the changing climate.”

He went on to write: “To do so successfully requires a clear-eyed assessment of the problem and the choices available to us. The good news is these problems are manageable.”

“Through proactive adaptation alone, the Environmental Protection Agency predicted in 2017, Americans could reduce damage caused by climate change to coastal property through 2099 by 90%,” he continued. “That doesn’t mean building sea walls around Florida or forcing Americans to move to higher ground.”

In a subsequent interview with CBS Miami, Rubio explained his views on climate change.

“Climate has always been changing,” he said. “Climate is changing now. And there is a lot of debate about its causes and what percentage of it is due to human activity versus something else.”

“I think clearly human activity contributes to it along with a lot of other factors as well including the fact the climate is always adjusting,” he explained. “ What is not in dispute is the impact that it’s having.”

“What can we do about it that’s realistic? Some of the stuff out there that they are talking about – the Green New Deal and all that – those things are not only not realistic they’d be catastrophic economically.”

“And there are things you can do about it and one of the things is adaptation,” he said. “That’s one thing everybody agrees on.”

What exactly are “adaptive measures”?

In his Op-Ed, Rubio referenced a 2017 EPA report. A review of that 245-page report, however, suggests Rubio’s claims that climate change is manageable may be a bit understated.

According to the report, adaption includes “beach nourishment, property elevation, shoreline armoring, property abandonment.”

The references to raising property elevations and armoring the shoreline with sea walls, appears to contradict the line in his Op-Ed that reads: “That doesn’t mean building sea walls around Florida or forcing Americans to move to higher ground.”

Asked about the contradiction, Rubio told CBS Miami: “I support sea wall projects. It doesn’t mean building a sea wall across the entire state of Florida, across the entire Atlantic Coast.”

“When you go back and look at what we are trying to get at in that statement, what we tried to say is, `Don’t buy into this imagery that none is going to be allowed to live near the water anymore, that everybody is going to have to move inland.”

But another “adaptive measure” in the 2017 EPA report is “property abandonment” – a point never mentioned by Rubio. According to the EPA report, during the next century one of the major ways to lower the cost of protecting coastal property is to simply acknowledge some of it cannot and should not be saved.

The report notes that in the Miami area these adaptive measures will call for abandoning $57 billion in costal property. In Tampa Bay, the EPA sets the figure at $63 billion.

“The vast majority of areas in Miami and Tampa Bay can be saved through the right mitigation and not have to lead to abandonment,” Rubio told CBS Miami.

Rubio denied his Op-Ed gives the false impression mitigating the impact of climate change on coastal properties is going to be easy or without pain.
Instead he said the point of his Op-Ed was to say the decisions made in the future need to be based on solid information, including a study he helped sponsor called the South Atlantic Coastal Study.

“The study and other work that is going to be done, the data is going to drive us to understand where are the places that are too vulnerable to rebuild,” he said, “what are the places that should be rebuilt in a certain way, and what are the areas that we don’t need to rebuild no matter how powerful their local congressperson may be in trying to get more funds.”

“There are areas near the water that will have to be abandoned, most of the areas near the water won’t have to be abandoned and even the ones that are may be rebuilt to a different standard. But again it has to be driven by data and by science and not by politics and power.”

Jim DeFede

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