Democrat Charlie Crist said he’s already a “believer” in climate change but said he listened to a scientific presentation Friday partly to highlight the differences between him and Gov. Rick Scott.
The presentation took place during a press conference as Jeff Chanton, a Florida State University oceanography professor, showed slide after slide showing the impact of global warming on Florida and the world. Chanton was one of 10 scientists who last week sent a letter to Scott requesting a sit-down to discuss climate change since the governor has often said he’s not a scientist when asked about global warming.
Scott’s response was that he’d have someone from his administration meet with the scientists. On Friday, Crist said he’d personally meet with the scientists who authored the letter. And Scott’s campaign later released a statement saying the governor would be “happy to meet with them.”
Chanton said he hasn’t personally been contacted by Scott, but the governor’s campaign spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said an appointment would be set up.
The so-called climate wars created an opportunity for Crist who said he not only wanted to “meet with Chanton to learn “but also to indicate there’s a distinction between the two of us running for governor this year.
“I noticed that my opponent, Rick Scott, would not meet with this wonderful scientist,” Crist said, adding that Scott “was not going to meet” with Chanton until “I accepted the opportunity to do so. It makes a great statement about the two different views of the world by the two of us, myself and Rick Scott.”
Scott’s campaign provided a little drama of its own. Schutz dashed into the press conference before Crist arrived and passed out copies of a picture of a private plane and a graph that said Crist flew on a plane owned by James Finch, owner of Phoenix Construction. A group of 15 Scott volunteers carried signs with messages like “Crist flies with polluters.”
When asked about the flying to the press conference, Crist said "Listen, I’m trying to win this race and Florida's a big state. And if the Republicans don’t think that I should be allowed to fly and have to drive everywhere when their candidate has his own private airplane that he got from the ill-gotten procedures he had at Columbia/HCA, I got another thing coming for em. I'm going to fly and I'm going to get around Florida as fast as I can to talk to as many people as I can to tell them the truth about what this guy isn't doing on climate change and education and other issues."
As for whether there was a better way to travel than flying in a plane owned by Finch, Crist said “Perhaps there is, but that’s really not the issue of today. The issue of today is who really cares about Florida.”
Crist said Scott was a "denier" in dealing with climate change and said his response has been “pathetic.”
Asked about Scott's attempts to tackle climate change, Chanton said, “I don’t think he’s done anything about it” but said he welcomed the opportunity to talk with the governor about the issue.
Chanton said Florida, the lowest state in the country, is “ground zero” for a climate change crisis.
Scott and state environmental officials face new deadlines under President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
Under those rules, Florida must prepare a plan within a year to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 38 percent by 2030.
Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the EPA.