Standing in Everglades National Park Wednesday, President Barack Obama called out Republican politicians for their continued denial that climate change is happening, is man-made and will pose serious risks to millions of Americans in coming decades.
Climate change “can’t be edited out,” Obama said. “It can no longer be omitted from the conversation, and action can no longer be delayed.” The comment was in reference to Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to ban state employees from using global warming-related terms in official communications, according to published reports.
“This is not a problem for another generation,” Obama said. “Not anymore. This is a problem now, and it has serious implications for the way we live right now.”
The President’s comments are part of a White House plan to make denial of climate change a political liability for Republicans heading into the 2016 political campaigns.
Florida is home to Republican presidential frontrunners Sen. Marco Rubio, who has formally announced his candidacy, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, who has not—both of whom deny or question human-driven global warming. The state’s large population and sharp political divide between progressive urban areas and increasingly conservative rural ones make it a microcosm of voters’ views on climate issues across the country.
In addition, Florida is on the front lines for the effects of climate change in the U.S. It has already experienced as much as nine inches of sea level rise along its nearly 1,200 miles of coastline. Rising salt water is creeping through the porous rock underlying much of the state and into freshwater aquifers, threatening the drinking supply for millions.
Environmentalism is “not something that historically has been a partisan issue,” Obama said. He cited Republican presidents including Theodore Roosevelt, who established the U.S. Forest Service; Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency; and George H.W. Bush, who was the first president to acknowledge the threat of climate change.
“If you’ve got a coming storm, you don’t stick your head in the sand,” he said. “You prepare for the storm.”
A Busy Week
The president’s Earth Day speech in the Everglades followed nearly a week of climate-related announcements and actions by the Obama administration.
Obama started the week by devoting his weekly Saturday address to climate change, largely foreshadowing his remarks in Florida. On Tuesday, the Department of Energy released its first Quadrennial Energy Report to analyze and provide recommendations for the nation’s aging energy infrastructure. The plan called for billions of dollars for projects including modernizing the electrical grid and promoting carbon dioxide capture and sequestration.
The administration also announced two executive actions to make the nation’s energy system more resilient to climate impacts and to invest in solar energy, particularly in rural areas, through a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program.
It also launched the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative to help communities in Florida, Hawaii, Washington and the Great Lakes region defend their natural resources and protected lands from the impacts of climate change. These threats include sea level rise, drought, wildfire and invasive species.