Rubio’s Climate Change Answer Fail

Photo credit: Michael Vadon

By Denis Dison

The question finally came. For months, Republican candidates have been ignoring or belittling the fact that climate change endangers millions of Americans with extreme drought, floods and storms. Then in the Republican debate on Thursday night, Sen. Marco Rubio was asked at last, “Will you acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus of climate change?”

Presented with one of the biggest challenges to our children’s generation, Sen. Rubio chose his now-standard path of denial and failure. He isn’t alone. None of the Republican candidates running for president has offered to lead America through the climate threat and into a vibrant, low-carbon future.

But as a resident of Florida — a state especially vulnerable to climate impacts — and standing in Miami — a city pummeled by sea-level rise — Sen. Rubio’s remarks were especially out of step.

“Sure,” he said. “The climate is changing…There was never a time when the climate was not changing,” pretty much proving he doesn’t understand the difference between climate and weather.

The National Academy of Sciences, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and countless other scientists report that pollution has accelerated and is supercharging weather patterns. Nineteen of the hottest years ever recorded have all occurred in the last 20 years. Man-made climate change isn’t an exotic theory, it’s mainstream science.

Sen. Rubio went on to say that he supports “mitigation” efforts to help places like Florida deal with sea-level rise, but he doesn’t plan to actually solve the problem. “As far as a law that we can pass in Washington that can change the weather? There’s no such thing,” Sen. Rubio said. See? He thinks this is about the number of sunny days. Or something.

Later in the debate Sen. Rubio expressed confidence in America’s ability to solve problems, saying there’s nothing we can’t do. Except limit carbon pollution? Sen. Rubio — and all the other do-nothing-on-climate candidates — is implying that the country that unleashed the IT revolution and put a man on the moon can’t cut pollution and dominate the clean energy market.

Sen. Rubio’s climate skepticism and pessimism are not shared by American voters, about 70% of whom want the next president to take action on climate change. They want leaders to shield their communities from devastating storms and wildfires. They want leaders to cut dangerous pollution and make the air safer to breathe. And they want leaders to expand the clean energy economy and the new jobs and money savings it brings — the Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon pollution, for instance, will help the average family save $100 a year on their energy bills.

This is the kind of leadership that will make our country stronger and our kids’ futures brighter. Marco Rubio won’t take us there.

Denis Dison is communications director at the NRDC Action Fund.