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National News

June 8, 2014

Florida GOP leaders balk at climate change

(Continued)

“It’s getting to the point where some properties being bought today will probably not be able to be sold at the end of a 30-year mortgage,” said Harold Wanless, chairman of the geological sciences department at University of Miami. “You would think responsible leaders and responsible governments would take that as a wake-up call.”

Florida lacks a statewide approach to the effects of climate change, although just a few years ago, it was at the forefront on the issue.

In 2007, Crist, then a Republican, declared global warming “one of the most important issues that we will face this century,” signed executive orders to tighten tailpipe-emission standards for cars and opposed coal-fired power plants.

Bush, his predecessor, had pushed the state during his administration to diversify its energy mix and prioritize conservation.

Even Rubio, who was then Florida House speaker and a vocal critic of Crist’s climate plans, supported incentives for renewable energy. With little opposition, the GOP-led Legislature passed a bill that laid the groundwork for a California-style cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions and created a special commission to study climate change.

But the efforts sputtered as the economy collapsed and Crist and Rubio faced off in a divisive 2010 Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Although Rubio had voted for Crist’s landmark environmental measure, he soon hammered the governor for what he called a “cap-and-trade scheme.” Seeking support from the growing tea party movement, he distanced himself from the vote.

Rubio also began to voice doubts about whether climate change is man-made, a doubt he shares with Bush. Both have stuck to that position.

Amid meetings with conservative activists and Republican leaders in New Hampshire last month, Rubio said: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.” Proposals to cut carbon emissions, he said, would do little to change current conditions but “destroy our economy.” Rubio later said he supports mitigation measures to protect coastal property from natural disasters.

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