By Pam McVety
Sen. Marco Rubio recently sent me a long letter about all that he is doing to address climate change. This sounds good, right? No it isn’t, because it was greenwashing.
The term “greenwashing” was coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, when he criticized the “save the towel” campaign in hotels. He pointed out how hypocritical it was compared to all the other actions hotels should be taking to be more sustainable.
Simply put, greenwashing is used to persuade you that a company or politician is green when their environmental actions are weak, superficial or not really addressing the problem.
Rubio has a history of denying the climate crisis, but now that a majority of Floridians believe it’s real and accelerated by human activity, he wants to convince you that he is addressing it.
I will give Rubio points for using the words “climate change,” which former Gov. Rick Scott did not want state employees to use. He also supports climate change research and adaptation. But he wants to have it both ways: to appeal to voters who believe in acting against climate change and to those who don’t, by doing very little about the root cause.
He won’t even admit that humans are causing climate change. In his letter, he says that “Scientists continue to study the Earth’s changing climate, including the contributions of human activities.” Continue to study human contributions? It is a proven fact that burning fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
In paragraph after paragraph, he talks about what he is doing to address climate change. There’s not a single mention of a plan to cut carbon emissions, which is what we need. Rather, he wants to empower the private sector “to continue making significant gains in emission reductions through innovation and efficiency.“ He fails to mention that we have long been relying on the private sector to voluntarily cut carbon emissions, and every year carbon emissions go up.
Rubio strongly supports efforts to adapt to impacts of climate variability. He hasn’t a clue as to how alarming this sounds. He wants outdoor workers — such as roofers, road contractors, farmers and migrant workers — to adapt to sizzling hot temperatures. He thinks crops can grow in high heat and kids can play in it. He wants us to build higher seawalls that can’t possibly hold back the rising oceans because of our karst topography. He has a bill to study coral loss, yet nothing to lower ocean temperatures back to the range that corals need to survive.
Rubio should be sponsoring bills that help families, businesses and corporations cut their carbon emissions. He should support a massive renewable-energy initiative for the country, which would create new jobs. He should be directing federal agencies to use every resource available to them to help the fossil fuel industry keep fossil fuels in the ground. He should be supporting President Biden’s initiatives to cut carbon emissions.
Greenwashing is purposely hard to detect. It is meant to deceive you and it is everywhere these days. History will show that politicians who fail to address the root cause of the climate crisis — the burning of fossil fuels — were obstructionists who cost us all dearly, delayed action and, God forbid, contributed to climate change becoming unstoppable.
Pam McVety, a biologist and Florida native, worked in executive positions for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for 30 years dealing with water management, marine resources, ecosystem management and coastal zone management. Since retiring in 2003, she has lectured, marched, protested, acted to cut carbon emissions and written about climate change.