Florida Mayors Say, Ask These Climate Questions in This Week's Presidential Debates

As usual, a discussion about climate change, renewable energy and related topics has been largely absent from the presidential debates on both sides.

In advance of this week’s debates in Miami, Florida, 21 mayors are asking moderators to include questions on how candidates would address rising sea levels and climate change generally.

"It would be unconscionable for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate you will be hosting in the state," they write. Mayors are from, for example, Miami, Coral Gables, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Tallahassee.

Indeed, the latest research concludes that Miami and New Orleans will be inundated by rising sea levels – even if emissions halted today, it is too late. Sea levels could rise two feet by 2060 in Florida, according to the US Geological Survey. Read our article, Sea Level Rise in 414 US Cities, Close to Locked In.

Questions Mayors Want Asked

In their letter, the bipartisan group of mayors suggest specific questions to ask at both Democratic and Republican debates.

  • As President, what investments will you make to protect our coastal assets and economy from the growing impacts of sea evel rise and climate change?In addition to Miami already dealing with "sunny day flooding" just from high tides, coastal flooding has increased between 300-900% on all three of the nation’s coasts over the last 50 years.
  • What policies would you put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help protect the future livelihoods of Americans like those in Miami from facing the worst of mpacts from climate change?
  • The US, China, and India – the three largest emitters – recently joined over 180 countries in pledges to significantly reduce emissions – which can cut future warming by nearly half. What policies would you put in place to ensure that America delivers on its commitment?

One of the 17 Republican debates took place three days after the Paris Climate Agreement, but still … no question.

"It’s not just the scientists, it’s the insurance industry, it’s the military. I can’t tell you how many generals and retired admirals are saying this issue is a top national security priority. So why wouldn’t they be asked, as Commander-in-Chief, ‘what are you doing to shore up all of our bases?,’" Mayor Cindy Lerner of Pinecrest (a Miami suburb), told ThinkProgress.

"It’s very distressing, to say the least [that they ignore or ridicule the subject] and clearly shows their lack of capacity to lead the country," she says.

What Republican candidates Say About Climate Change

  • Trump waves his hand, dismissing it, or cites snow in winter. He hates offshore wind farms and lost in UK’s Supreme Court over it.
  • Cruz says there is no scientific consensus that the world’s climate is changing, and "According to satellite data, there has been no warming for the past 18 years." "It’s all the fevered ramblings of a bunch of liberals, who want to impose massive government control over the economy, the energy sector and every aspect of our lives."
  • Rubio says the weather is "always changing," and doing anything about it would kill jobs and the economy.
  • Only Kasich acknowledges the existence of climate change, but has no plan to deal with it, and campaigns on eliminating ALL regulations. He opened state public lands to fracking (70% opposed it) and froze energy efficiency and renewable energy policies in Ohio, despite strong support from citizens.
  • They all want environmental regulations scaled back. Trump and Cruz would abolish the EPA altogether.

Marco Rubio was a city councilor in West Miami. "He knows the impacts we’ve been dealing with for at least 10 years. We don’t have to show him. We all know he knows better. He’s decided that his role is as a climate denier, for ideological purposes," Lerner told ThinkProgress.

In 2008, state legislator Rubio spoke a different tune. He voted for a bill that would cut emissions and said he wanted Florida to get a jump on other states by creating a cap-and-trade system! Now he says, it’s "absurd" that laws can "change our weather."

As for Cruz, "This individual understands less about science [and climate change] than the average kindergartner," says climate scientist Michael Mann. "That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president."

Democratic Debate Addresses Fracking, Climate

While questions on climate have also been absent in Democratic debates, both Clinton and Sanders say it is an existential crisis and must be addressed as a top priority.

We finally heard our first question on fracking in last night’s Democratic debate.

If you didn’t watch it, a student asked whether the candidates support fracking, and while Hillary outlined regulations she’d like to see, Bernie said: "My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking."

The audience cheered.

Hillary supports fracking bans in towns and states that want that, and wouldn’t allow fracking if it caused methane emissions or water pollution, and would require operators to disclose the chemicals they use.

"By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place," she said.

Sanders said (I’m paraphrasing): we’re too far along on climate change for half measures. "We’ve got to be bold now. We’ve got to transform our energy system to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. We have to do it yesterday."

Sanders is a co-sponsor of Keep It In the Ground legislation, which permanently bans oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. Clinton would do that over the long run, she says.

Climate Presidential Candidates 2016Follow The Money

So far, individuals that owe their fortunes to fossil fuels have donated an unprecedented $107 million to Republican Super Pacs – about a third of all donations, reports The Guardian, and Trump has millions invested in fossil fuels.

Clinton’s Super Pac owes about 7% of donations to mega-rich fossil fuel donors, according to filings.

The biggest donations come from fracking CEOs in Texas, the Wilks family and Toby Neugebauer, and of course, people associated with the Koch Brothers.

Both Cruz and Rubio voted against the environment on every single vote in 2015, resulting in a Zero score on the League of Conservation Voters National Environmental Scorecard. House Republicans got an average score of 3% and Senate Republicans, 5%.

Democrats in the House had average scores of 91% and Senators, 92%. Senator Bernie Sanders scored 100%.

There were dozens of votes on policies like approving the Keystone pipeline, expediting applications to drill on public lands, blocking fracking regulations and the Clean Power Plan. LCV calls the 2015 Republican-led Congress "the most anti-environmental Congress in our nation’s history."

Here’s the letter from 21 Florida mayors:

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