@jenstaletovich @Patricia Mazzei
In his first ever visit to the Everglades on Wednesday — Earth Day — President Barack Obama hopes to connect climate change impacts already unfolding in the imperiled wetland to wider risks across the nation.
Obama plans to tour the Everglades, as long as it doesn’t rain, and make a speech about the importance of protecting the environment — not just for the planet’s sake, but also to boost the economy, protect national security and guard public health.
The president will tout his administration’s record on tackling environmental problems, including imposing a historic cap on carbon pollution and spending $2.2 billion on Everglades restoration projects. He further plans to unveil new ways to assess the value of the country’s national parks, including a study that shows protected wild lands play a major role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Visitors to parks also poured $15.7 billion into surrounding communities, the administration said.
Obama will also reveal new conservation efforts in four areas of the country, including Southwest Florida. And in a move some say is long overdue, the National Park Service will designate as a national historic landmark the Marjory Stoneman Douglas house in Coconut Grove, which several years ago sparked a contentious fight between preservationists and neighbors. The pioneering preservationist is largely credited with sparking Everglades restoration.
In addition to highlighting his environmental record, Obama’s trip is intended to pressure Republicans into a more robust climate-change debate. Voters will elect Obama’s successor in 18 months, and the GOP field so far is teeming with would-be candidates who question whether climate change is man-made, despite significant scientific scholarship concluding that it is largely a result of carbon emissions.
Among those skeptics are U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and, to a lesser extent, former Gov. Jeb Bush, both of Miami. While Obama is not expected to single out any presidential contender, a trip to Bush’s and Rubio’s backyard will hardly go unnoticed in the early days of the 2016 campaign.