Not 15 miles from the homes of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush on the mainland, Miami Beach work crews elevate the streets, turning ground floors effectively into windowed basements, to try to stave off the implacable rise of sea water. Up comes the powerful ocean, threatening people, property and the underground freshwater supply.
Can’t control nature, Rubio quips with a smile. Got bigger problems, Bush insists with exasperation.
“I don’t have a plan to influence the weather,” Rubio said dismissively at a town-hall style meeting in New Hampshire last month.
“It wouldn’t be on my first page of things that wake me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat,” Bush said in the same state on the same day.
Miami’s two Republican presidential candidates don’t sound much worried about one of their hometown’s most pressing environmental problems.
They’re not “deniers” who question climate change’s existence, as some of their presidential rivals do, though both say they’re skeptical about how much of it is man-made. Bush has gone further than Rubio, acknowledging sea rise’s long-term effects for Miami; he said in New Hampshire even a five-inch increase “would create some real hardship.”
But they sound markedly different from their local politicians who have resigned themselves to a harsh reality. Even if some of them don’t want to talk about how mankind’s thirst for fossil fuels is to blame for global warming, city and county leaders of both political parties have stopped debating whether South Florida is going under water.
Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff