Florida Mayors Demand Climate-Change Questions at Miami Primary Debates

Rising Sea Levels, Full Moon, High Tide Cause Flooding In Miami Beach
Sunny-day flooding in Fort Lauderdale. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A bipartisan coalition of Florida mayors really doesn’t want to see the ocean swallow their cities. Thus, they’d like to know exactly how America’s presidential candidates plan to keep that from happening. Which is still a bit hard to discern, since the topic of climate change has been curiously absent from the vast majority of this cycle’s 2,314* debates and town halls.

So these mayors have penned a pair of letters, one to the moderators of this Thursday’s Republican debate in Miami, and the other to the hosts of next week’s Democratic debate, which is also being held in the Magic City. In the missives, the mayors write that they are “concerned about sea level rise and climate change and the severe impacts it is having on our communities,” and feel that it would be “unconscionable for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate.” The mayors express special concern about the failure of a certain Florida senator to address those issues. “In particular, Senator Rubio represents this state and should not be allowed to fail to provide, or side step, substantive answers to these questions,” they write.

The mayors demand that Rubio provide plans for protecting the state’s coastal assets through infrastructure investment, speeding America’s transition to renewable energy and ensuring that the United States meets the emissions-reduction goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement.  

The one time that Rubio was asked about climate-change policy at a GOP debate, he voiced his opposition to any legislation that would “make America a harder place to create jobs” while doing “absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate.” (He also shared his belief that “America is not a planet.”)

Last week, average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere breached two degrees Celsius above the “normal” threshold for the first time in recorded history, according to Slate. With its long coastline and low-lying cities, Florida is especially vulnerable to sea-level rise, more so than most regions on Earth. To combat this existential crisis, the state’s government has opted for a strategy best suited to a significant other’s bad haircut: Don’t say anything about it, and wait for the problem to resolve itself. Florida governor Rick Scott has reportedly banned his aides from using the words sea-level rise, advising them to employ the term nuisance flooding.

Let’s hope our next president heeds these mayors’ call before our grandkids are doomed to a “nuisance apocalypse.”

*This is only an estimate. Scientists have yet to determine the exact number of town halls held this cycle. 

Florida Mayors: Ask Rubio About Climate Change