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University scientists ask Scott for chance to meet to talk about climate science

Jeff ChantonIn an effort to push Gov. Rick Scott into the debate on climate change, ten prominent scientists from the state’s top universities on Tuesday asked to meet with him to explain the impact human-induced global warming will have on Florida.

"We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change,’’ the professors wrote in the two-page letter. "You responded that you are ‘not a scientist.’ We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state."

Scott initially denied the impact of human-induced global warming when he first ran for office in 2010 saying he has "not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change." He has since been reluctant to engage on the issue, answering only, "I’m not a scientist,’’ when he was asked about it.

The scientists, who are the top in their fields at the universities of Miami, Florida State, Florida International and Eckerd College, believe they can explain simply why they believe the governor should care.

"Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern,’’ the scientists wrote. "This is not a hypothetical. Thousands of scientists have studied the issue from a variety of angles and disciplines over many decades.

Photo: Jeff Chanton, atmospheric science professor at Florida State University hands letter to Kim McClure in Gov. Rick Scott's office

"Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists – seekers of evidence and explanations."

The issue is likely to gain steam in the months ahead as the governor’s race pits Scott against former Gov. Charlie Crist, who while governor initiated the most aggressive climate change policies in Florida’s history.

Under pressure from global-warming naysayers, including the conservative Americans For Prosperity and the utility industry, Florida lawmakers have since repealed or defunded most of Crist’s initiatives.

Americans For Prosperity Florida director Chris Hudson said his organization has more than $3 million to spend on statewide education efforts this election cycle and he expects climate change to be an issue this election as well as in 2016.

To push back against that effort, and to keep climate change at the forefront of the debate, a federal super PAC called NextGenClimate has targeted Scott and has identified Florida as one of the seven states it will be pouring money into this election year.

"NextGen Climate will hold Gov. Scott accountable for his extreme anti-science position and highlight the important choice voters face in November," said spokeswoman Suzanne Henkels.

The organization’s strategy includes mobilizing and targeting Hispanic voters in South Florida and the I-4 corridor with information about salt water intrusion and rising flood insurance costs in coastal communities.

Meanwhile, Scott and his environmental officials face new deadlines under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Under the plan, the Environmental Protection Agency has required that states reduce greenhouse gas emissions from future and existing power plants by specific levels by 2030.

Under those rules, Florida must prepare a plan to reduce it greenhouse gas emissions by about 38 percent by 2030 within the year.

According to the EPA, Florida has the 13th lowest historical fossil fuel emissions of any state. But the EPA gives the advantage to other states over Florida when calculating the 2030 standard because Florida doesn't have a robust plans to increase renewable energy output and displace coal-fired fuel generation.

A study by the environmental consulting firm the Brattle Group calculated that the EPA rule will require Florida to reduce its CO2 levels by more than 40 million tons, or about 38 percent, at a cost of about $1.3 billion.

By comparison, states with more aggressive emissions reduction goals – like California and Oregon – will see no net increase in their carbon reduction costs.

Jeff Chanton, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, hand-delivered the letter to Scott’s Capitol office.

"I just want him to understand what the situation is – and put it in a historical, million-year context, about what the greenhouse gas history is,’’ Chanton said.

He explained that ice core records offer a multi-million-year history of the CO2 levels of the earth. During the Ice Age, temperatures went through vast extremes but the, the CO2 levels didn’t vary more than 100 parts per million -- between 180 ppm to 280 ppm.

"When the CO2 levels rose, the temperatures rose" and water that was stored as ice, melted to raise the level of the ocrean,’’ he said. "Today, CO2 levels are up to 400 -- might we be concerned about the temperature changes?

"It’s not rocket science,’’ Chanton said. "I can explain it. Give me half an hour."

In addition to Chanton, the letter was 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, 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 and Harold Wanless, professor of geological sciences at the University of Miami.


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Can't take anymore

Scott would rather spend 5 minutes with Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin who only need that much time to convince him that climate change is a liberal conspiracy to extort more grant money from government for "research" on the issue.

William C.

Please tell me the ideal temp. of the earth? How did you arrive at that number?

ed jenkins

This William is a wise man and the readers would like to hear more from him as they unlike a small minority do not obsess about daily temperature changes and determine that the world is ending because the temperature is different than some other date when this world was possibly in an ice age.

The citizens do not want their governor associating with these teachers who cannot make it in the real world so they spend their lives in fantasy land where decisions and outrageous concepts have no consequences.


Yeah Ed, 'cause nothing says "I'm a no-nothing idiot" like being hired as:

professors of marine ecosystems and society at the University of Miami;
professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College;
professor of physical sciences and engineering at the University of Miami;
professor of environmental science and chemistry at Florida International University;
professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami;
professor of ocean sciences at the University of Miami;
professor of geological sciences at the University of Miami.

Also, you do realize that part of the college/university experience is just precisely so people can try out what you call "outrageous concepts"?

So much of what you Ed enjoy today (and would probably hesitate to do without) was at one time considered an "outrageous concept".

If R. Scott really believed in promoting STEM education and STEM jobs in Florida, he'd also back current science (That's the "S" in STEM) on this issue, not try to hide and run away and not answer questions about it.

Seems lately he's not answering questions about much of anything, just repeating talking points.

Bob Hardy

If these ten "scientists" believe in anthropogenic climate change then I question their science credentials. Basic science proves AGW is a hoax.

Man's activities have almost no effect on the atmosphere which has a volume of about 1,462,500,278,139,740,000,000 cubic feet. Do you really think a mere 7 billion people can have any effect on that?

The earth’s atmosphere is only .038% carbon dioxide, and NONE of that came from man’s activities. The specific gravity of CO2 is 1.4, that is, it is heavier than air (sg 1). Surface produced CO2 can NOT reach the atmosphere or become a “Greenhouse Gas.”

Our life saving "Greenhouse Gas" is mostly H2O. Yes plain old water (about 95%).

Bob Mold

People cannot change the composition of the atmosphere? Not true. How came there to be oxygen in the atmosphere? It was produced by a photosynthetic bacteria. The activity of these photosynthetic bacteria radically altered the atmosphere's composition and changed the earth. If a bacteria can change the atmosphere, why not people>?? In addition, although spacious, the atmosphere is the most dilute of the earth's reservoirs. Its composition is most readily affected relative to the hydrosphere or lithosphere. And finally, we treat waste we release into the land and water. Why do we dump untreated waste (CO2 is a WASTE product) into the atmosphere?

Dan Corrie

It amuses me when a climate denier like Bob Hardy (above) will refer to actual educated, trained, experienced scientists as "scientists" (in sneer quotes),then declare them to be wrong and to argue his point by disjointedly spouting a few numbers that he clearly has no background to understand. Thank you, Mr. Hardy and those like you, but I prefer to listen to the solid consensus of the actual scientific community.

Keith Stegath

I am an engineer and researcher and a candidate for Governor. When 98% of climate researchers agree on climate change, it's a pretty good bet.

Keith Stegath

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