October 19, 2014

Report: Florida's tip, Cape Sable, losing ground to rising seas


From the sky, Florida’s rugged tip looks like a scrap of emerald green lace: marshes and mangroves and tree islands all knit together by ribbons of creeks and lakes.

But at Cape Sable, a remote outpost where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico, the coast is fraying.

Usually, geological change is so slow that “you never see something in your lifetime,” Audubon Florida biologist Peter Frezza said recently as he piloted his boat around acres of mud flats filling Lake Ingraham. “But we’re watching this happen.”

For more than a decade, scientists have seen the cape as the tip of the sword in climate change. Sliced open by canals dug through the marl dividing marshes from the bay a century ago by Henry Flagler’s land company, the cape is particularly vulnerable to rising seas. Flagler was hoping to drain the wetland and lure homesteaders and ranchers. Story here.  

October 17, 2014

Scientists offer up solutions on climate change, now ask Gov. Rick Scott to hear them

 Gov. Rick Scott asked for solutions and so they brought them.

Scientists, business leaders, local elected officials came up with a lengthy list of ways Florida could help to address climate change and on Friday delivered a letter to the governor and asking him for, yes, another meeting.

This comes as the governor's silence on climate change, his campaign's receipt of millions from the utility industry, and his failure to create a state energy policy in the face of rising sea waters has become a vulnerability in his race for governor.

NextGen Climate, the political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer to target climate change skeptics, has spent more than $12 million in Florida for a campaign to defeat Scott's re-election bid. They are running television ads in the crucial Tampa Bay media market, have opened 21 offices, and say they have more than 500 staffers, canvassers and volunteers across Florida. They also built an ark and trucked it across the state to get TV time. 

Scott won't say if he believes that humans, fossil fuel or other factors contribute to the earth's warming but he did agree to meet with five scientists Aug. 19 in his office. Before the meeting, he said he was a less interested in causes than he was in addressing them. During the meeting, he asked no issue-related questions but said he was a "solutions guy." 

The scientists took that as a call to action. They joined with elected officials and business leaders and convened the Climate Science & Solutions Summit at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg last week. It was a standing room only crowd.

A summary of the suggestions that emerged was written up for the governor and signed by 50 of the participants, delivered to the governor's office today with a request for a in-person meeting. 

Continue reading "Scientists offer up solutions on climate change, now ask Gov. Rick Scott to hear them" »

October 07, 2014

Forum talks climate solutions, inspired and in spite of Gov. Scott


About 250 people turned out Monday afternoon for a conference on climate change inspired by Gov. Rick Scott to talk about solutions ranging from alternate energy sources to coping with sea-level rise.

The Florida Climate Science and Solutions Summit, held at Eckerd College, brought together scientists, government officials and entrepreneurs to discuss what’s worked and what has not as the atmosphere and oceans heat up.

Three of the four climate scientists who were on the first panel of the conference were part of a group that met with the governor in August to talk to him about climate change. When Scott took office in 2011 he was openly skeptical about climate change, but while seeking re-election he has replied to questions about his position by saying, “I’m not a scientist.”

When the climate scientists met with Scott, he did not commit to any change in his stance, but said he was more interested in solutions than anything else. That prompted Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to work with Eckerd officials in setting up the conference.

At one point, moderator Rob Lorei of WMNF-FM asked the scientists if they’re part of a vast conspiracy to promote an unproven theory just to rake in big-dollar government grants. Ben Kirtman of the University of Miami said, “Shoot, we can barely agree on anything.” More from Craig Pittman here.



September 27, 2014

Proposed Florida amendment would set aside taxes to conserve land


More than two decades after Florida identified the need to save disappearing forests south of Miami, shrinking hammocks in the Keys and other sensitive land around the state, environmentalists fed up with politics getting in the way of conservation are taking their fight to the people.

In November, they will ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment — Amendment 1 on the ballot — that sets aside a third of taxes collected on real estate transactions over the next 20 years to conserve land and protect water.

The effort could potentially raise $10 billion and has already won support from a cross section of Florida interests: animals rights groups, local garden clubs, kayakers, bikers and even surfers. More than 700,000 signatures were collected to place the amendment on the ballot. To pass, 60 percent of voters must approve the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment.

Backers — citing drastic cuts to state spending on environmental land, as much as 95 percent by their estimate since 2009 — say the amendment simply restores money already promised by state lawmakers.

More here.

September 22, 2014

NextGen Climate: FL poll shows ads are hurting Rick Scott, helping Charlie Crist


NextGen Climate's five TV ads bashing Florida Gov. Rick Scott's environmental record have hurt the Republican and, as a result, given an otherwise-outgunned Charlie Crist more of a fighting chance this election season, according to a polling memo from the environmental group.

In a head-to-head matchup, Crist leads Scott 46-43 percent. With Libertarian Adrian Wyllie in the race, Scott is up 42-41 percent. Both leads are inside the error margins of the poll of 600 likely Florida voters conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang, a firm that typically surveys for Democrats and liberals.

Pollster Geoff Garin says, compared to a survey taken in July, "Scott’s standing has eroded significantly" in the three media markets where voters have seen at least $1.8 million worth of ads that focus on Scott’s ties to Duke Energy, the sugar lobby and an Everglades oil-drilling outfit.

"Scott’s personal negatives increased 11 points in Ft. Myers (from 30% to 41%), and four points in Tampa (from 42% to 46%) and West Palm Beach (from 49% to 53%). His net job approval rating dropped 11 points in West Palm Beach (-6 to -17), six points in Tampa (from +1 to -5), and five points in Ft. Myers (from +27 to +22)," the polling memo says.

"As a result, the gubernatorial trial heat has also shifted toward Crist in all three markets. Since early July, Crist has taken over the lead in Tampa, going from a three-point deficit to a two-point lead; he has expanded his lead form three points to 12 points in West Palm Beach; and he has reduced Scott’s lead in the Republican stronghold of Ft. Myers from 28 points to just 19 points."

NextGen, run by billionaire Tom Steyer, isn't just running commercials. It's organizing on the ground as well and says it has opened 17 offices across Florida, knocked on 158,000 doors and made about 35,000 calls to donors.

It's not as if Crist's campaign is doing nothing, either. It began advertising heavily in July, when Garin's baseline survey was taken, and has since placed or run about $14 million in ads. Scott has run $35 million since March.

Democrats were abuzz about Steyer pumping as much as $10 million in the race, with $5 million on ads. But the rate of ad spending appears to have slowed and its unclear if that's a sign of things to come, a pause or a blip in the data.

A note about the poll, which oversampled in the three media markets: the toplines look similar to other surveys when it comes to Democratic and Republican support for the candidates, but Crist's 59-26 percent lead among independents is an outlier. Crist loses 10 points with Wyllie in the race, who makes the contest essentially dead even. It's another sign that Wyllie might ultimately help Scott and hurt Crist, who ran as an independent in 2010.

Here's the whole memo:  Download NGC FL Poll Findings - Sept 2014[1] (1)

September 18, 2014

NextGen builds an ark and says Gov. Rick Scott is picking the passengers

 And now for the latest gimmick: NextGen Climate has built an ark, and the Democrat-leaning enviro group is trucking it around Florida using a pretty low-efficiency vehicle to bring home the point that Gov. Rick Scott won't talk about, yes, climate change. 

The ark made its first stop in Tallahassee on Thursday and is headed to Tampa on Friday. The high-profile visual comes a day after 42 scientists from universities around the state asked the governor and other state leaders to call a Climate & Solutions Summit to bring the issue front and center. Scott met with five scientists last month but wouldn't say whether he has changed his mind from denying that human-induced pollution has caused climate change. He did say he likes solutions. 

In Tallahassee on Thursday, Dr. Ron Saff, an alergy and asthma specialist and a member of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, warned that the time for talk has already passed as Florida is feeling the effects of human-induced global warming with increased cases of mosquito-borne illnesses such as enchephalitis and dengue fever. 

"The medical implications of global climate change are catastropic,'' he said. "Parts of Miami are regularly flooding and climate change isn't a thing we have to worry about in the future. It's already here."

Jillian Mushman, a junior at Florida State University, told the small crowd at the Tallahassee park that "two by two, Rick Scott’s special interest campaign contributors'' -- such as sugar lobbyists, oil drillers, and the Koch brothers who recently spent $25,000 -- will get a "ticket on Scott’s Ark."

"Florida families may not have the campaign cash to get a ticket on the ark but what we do have is the choice in November,'' she said. 

September 17, 2014

Scientists respond to Gov. Rick Scott, call for 'Science & Solutions Summit'

Scott and climate changeIf Florida’s climate scientists have proven anything this summer, it is that they are careful listeners.

After Gov. Rick Scott told them last month that he is “focused on solutions,” 42 scientists from Florida colleges and universities crafted a letter asking the governor and state policy leaders to convene a “Climate Science & Solutions Summit” to be held this fall to come up with an action plan for Florida.

“As scientists, we would like the opportunity to contribute scientific information to a plan which would address what is at stake for our state,’’ the scientists wrote.

The letter, to be released on Thursday and obtained by the Herald/Times, comes a month after five of the state’s top climate scientists met with Gov. Rick Scott to discuss climate change.

The scientists asked for the meeting after Scott said that he did not have an opinion on the issue because he was “not a scientist.”

The scientists first wrote to Scott saying they “were scientists” and would welcome the opportunity to explain to him why Florida is especially vulnerable as rising sea levels are flooding streets in Miami Beach, salt water is encroaching on drinking water supplies, and warming water is damaging the coral reefs.

But just hours before the Aug. 19 meeting in his office, the governor told reporters that instead of talking about the causes of climate change, he wanted to talk about solutions. Story here. Here's the letter: Download SCIENTISTS ON CLIMATE SCIENCE AND SOLUTIONS

Top Photo: Eckerd College Marine Science Professor David Hastings speaks to Gov. Rick Scott and his aide, Noah Valenstein, about why Florida should take action now to offset the impact of climate change in August.

Below: Climate scientists outside Florida's old Capitol and on the 22nd floor of the new Capitol, surveying the topography and the state's former ocean ridge.

IMG_2972 IMG_2989


Miami-Dade wants more scrutiny of FPL cooling canals, fearing bigger problems


Worried that rising temperatures and a festering algae bloom in Turkey Point’s cooling canals may hint at bigger problems for Florida Power & Light, Miami-Dade County officials said Tuesday they plan to assert the county's regulatory power to find out what’s ailing the aging canals.

“Clearly the cooling canal water is migrating outside the boundaries of their system,” Lee Hefty, director of the Division of Environmental Resources Management, told county commissioners before suggesting the county take action.

Since June, FPL has been struggling to control the hot canals and an algae bloom that has spread throughout the 168-mile loop. The canals were dug in the 1970s and act like a radiator to help keep the nuclear power plant from overheating.

The utility has twice asked the South Florida Water Management District for more water to freshen the canals. Earlier this summer, the agency signed off on up to 14 million gallons a day from the Floridan aquifer and last week agreed to a temporary permit for up to 100 million gallons of freshwater a day from a nearby canal.

The utility needed the county’s permission to lay pipes across endangered wetlands, a request that could have been granted by staff. But environmental groups asked for a public hearing, warning that a spreading underground saltwater plume potentially worsened by the hot canals posed a bigger risk to Biscayne National Park and area water quality.

“We have the distinction of being the only national park adjacent to a nuclear power plant,” park superintendent Brian Carlstrom told county commissioners. “We really need to understand why this unprecedented event is happening.”

The utility has blamed below-normal rainfall on the rising temperatures and increased salinity. In July and August, temperatures exceeded 102 degrees and twice threatened to shut down the plant. Because of the spike, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission raised temperature limits to 104 degrees to keep the plant operating. More here. 



September 03, 2014

Climate scientist David Hastings: What I told the governor

Despite the headline in the Tampa Tribune that got it wrong, here's an op-ed by climate scientist David Hastings of Eckerd College about what he told Gov. Rick Scott during their meeting two weeks ago: 

I recently joined fellow climate scientists in a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott to discuss the threat climate change poses to our state. We appreciated the opportunity to have a dialogue with the governor, but we left the meeting with concerns about his willingness to take meaningful action to address this problem. This is a leadership moment for Scott, since Florida is ground zero for the impacts of climate change.

We explained to Scott that the fundamentals of climate science are not complicated. Global temperatures are now at record highs. Sea level is rising. Oceans are more acidic. We are responsible.

That said, global air temperatures have remained more or less constant for the past 15 years. Yes, it’s true! They haven’t changed much since the record-setting year of 1998. And skeptics, including Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson (“Climate professors and Rick Scott’s sphinxian agenda,” Aug. 24, Metro), are eager to discredit the overwhelming majority of climate change scientists and the vast troves of data indicating the severity of human-induced climate change.

Their underlying message is that if the Earth isn’t warming as fast as we think it should be, we can continue our carbon-guzzling ways. 

So what’s going on? More here. 


August 27, 2014

Tom Steyer's new ad puts Rick Scott's King Ranch controversy in its sights


Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer's group, NextGen Climate, is planning to air its fifth ad targeting Gov. Rick Scott, attacking the Republican this time for his controversial secret hunting trip to King Ranch in Texas.

"What was Rick Scott really hunting for in Texas? Campaign cash from the sugar industry," a narrator intones as a wad of cash comes into a rifle's sight. "The same industry that got a massive bailout from Rick Scott, sticking taxpayers with the bill for cleaning up Big Sugar's water pollution. Rick Scott: sweet deals for the powerful few -- not you."

Oh, the irony. 

Scott's rival, Charlie Crist, was once Big Sugar's favorite when he was a Republican governor and inked a land deal with U.S. Sugar. Scott bashed the buyout/bailout, but then became governor and embraced it and now attacks Crist for not closing the deal.

This ad is scheduled to run in the West Palm Beach and Naples-Fort Myers' media markets.

With this spot, Steyer is closing in on $1 million spent against Scott on TV. Steyer has plans to spend as much as $10 million, including a large field organization that, if done properly, could bring environmental voters to the polls in a large and unprecedented way.

Here's the spot.