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Scientists To Scott: Meet With Us On Climate Change

Mikaela Sheldt

Ten scientists from Florida universities are asking Gov. Rick Scott to talk with them about climate change and the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida. 

Scott, when running for Governor in 2010 initially denied the impact of human-induced global warming, saying that he’s not convinced that there's any man-made climate change. He has since been reluctant to engage on the issue.

The letter is signed by experts in marine systems, atmospheric sciences and other climate change-related fields at the University of Miami, Florida State University, Eckerd College and Florida International University. Jeff Chanton, an oceanography professor at FSU, hand-delivered it to Scott’s office on Tuesday.

“Gov. Scott, when he was asked questions about climate change, said ‘I am not a scientist, I really can’t judge this’” said Chanton. “We, ten scientists from across the state, have simply asked to meet with him and we would be more than happy to explain climate change science to him and bring him up to speed so he can make informed decisions.”

There was no response from the Governor’s office as of late Wednesday.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration, Florida has the 13th lowest historical fossil fuel emissions of any state. But the state is without a plan to increase renewable energy and displace coal-fired fuel generation. As a result, Florida is considered one of the most vulnerable locations in the U.S.

Scott and his environmental officials face new federal deadlines that states reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future and existing power plants by 38% by the year 2030. The scientists’ letter is aimed at explaining simply why Gov. Scott should care. But Chanton adds that the letter is not a “save the Earth” message.

“The Earth will be fine. A lot of people have pointed out that the Earth has been through tremendous climate changes,” Chanton said. “This is an issue for people’s comfort, people’s humanity and people’s civilization. We have seven billion people on this planet and it’s very precarious feeding everyone and taking care of everyone. When you have climate disruption, you have war. The thing in Syria right now, was preceded by four years of drought.”

The Pensacola City Council voted Monday to delay any discussion of local climate change at Thursday’s regular meeting. Councilwoman Sherri Myers brought a request from the group 350 Pensacola, for the city to form a task force on the matter. But Councilman Larry B. Johnson – a member of the Emerald Coastkeepers board, called for the delay until more information is gathered and distributed.

The motion to delay the climate change talks passed on a 7-1 vote, with Myers the lone dissenter. She plans to bring it back at the next Agenda Review in late August.

Meanwhile, both climate change affirmers and deniers are gearing up for the race between Gov. Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s now a Democrat. FSU’s Jeff Chanton says it’s saddening to watch the issue being politicized.

“In my opinion, if Gov. Scott were to move to the center right now, he could steal a lot of votes from the presumptive nominee,” Chanton said. “I think the best thing Gov. Scott could do right now is to meet with us. And then, people would see that he is moving on this issue.”

The conservative Americans for Prosperity reportedly has more than three million dollars to spend on an anti-climate change education project. On the other side, the super PAC NextGenClimate has targeted Scott and identified Florida as one of the seven states where it will pour money.                 

Besides Chanton, the letter was also signed by:

Andrew Bakun and Kenny Broad, professors of marine ecosystems and society at the University of Miami;

David Hastings, professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College;

Ben Kirtman, professor of physical sciences and engineering at the University of Miami;

Thomas J. Morgan, assistant in medicine, College of Medicine, Florida State University;

John Parker, professor of environmental science and chemistry at Florida International University;

Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami;

John Van Leer, professor of ocean sciences at the University of Miami,

Harold Wanless, professor of geological sciences at the University of Miami.