By Joseph Bonasia
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report describes just how dire is our climate crisis, reemphasizing the “code red” warning of its previous report. It mentions Florida several times, noting our elevated risk of flooding, exacerbation of algal blooms, damage to coral reefs, the specter of coastal retreat and the economic impacts that accompany them.
Coincidently, Sen. Rick Scott recently issued his 11-point Plan for America in which he states: “The weather is always changing. We take climate change seriously, but not hysterically. We will not adopt nutty policies that harm our economy or our jobs.”
Unclear is what the senator considers “hysterical.”
The Department of Defense states that climate change is “a critical national security issue and threat multiplier … costing the Department billions of dollars and … degrading mission capabilities.” Failure to adapt will lead to “lost military capability, weakened alliances, [and] enfeebled international stature.” Is the Defense Department being hysterical?
Business Roundtable CEOs, responsible for $7.5 trillion dollars of revenue and the jobs of 15 million employees, declare, “The urgency and scale of the climate challenge is difficult to overstate.” They have issued a global call to action. Hysterical?
The World Bank says the climate crisis is one of three “defining issues of our age.” The International Monetary Fund states “Climate change remains a clear and present threat.” And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce declares, “Inaction is not an option.”
Editors of 200 medical journals warn that without significant action to curtail global warming, “catastrophic harm to health will be impossible to reverse.”
“Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world,” Pope Francis tells us. “Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility.”
Are such statements, and many more like them, considered hysterical?
Likewise unclear is what Sen. Scott considers “nutty.”
Were four former Chairs of the Federal Reserve, 28 Nobel Laureate economists, 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisors “nutty” when in 2019 they stated, “A carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary”?
A carbon tax, they explain, will “harness the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future.” It will “encourage” technological innovation and replace the need for “cumbersome” regulations. The revenue will be returned to citizens through monthly “carbon dividends.” Most families, especially those with lower incomes, will end up with money in their pockets even after paying for increased energy prices.
Thousands of economists, conservative and liberal alike, support a carbon tax, as do the Business Roundtable CEOs mentioned above. “Carbon pricing is a central component of a sound strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change,” they say.
This market-based approach shows how seriously these authorities regard climate change. Sen. Scott could demonstrate the same degree of seriousness by supporting a price on carbon or by providing a substantive program of his own to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed needed. He has done neither.
Floridians, and all Americans, need effective leadership on climate action now. Except for a few bright stars such as Florida Reps. Ted Deutch, Charlie Crist, Frederica Wilson and Al Lawson, who have co-sponsored the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, Congress isn’t providing that leadership. Respectfully, neither is Sen. Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Ron DeSantis, nor the Florida Legislature.
According to the Secretary General of the United Nations, there is a “criminal abdication of leadership” worldwide, but that doesn’t absolve most of Florida’s leaders of their inaction.
Recently, a friend who teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University asked her students what they were doing about climate change. “We’re waiting for you to die,” one young woman said. She meant her generation is waiting for boomers to die so serious climate action can be undertaken. It was a chilling remark.
Was it hysterical? Considering that arguments based on science, reason, religion, morality and generational justice have proven themselves ineffective in producing significant climate action, maybe we need a little hysteria.
More chilling than that student’s remark was the professor’s reply. “You don’t get it,” she said. “You don’t have time to wait.” Yet another IPCC report bears her out.
One thing is clear: “nutty” is doing nothing.
Joseph Bonasia is Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s volunteer liaison to Sen. Rick Scott’s office.