Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his administration would be “happy to meet” with 10 scientists from Florida universities who want to talk about climate change, a subject he has been reluctant to address.
A letter from the scientists was delivered to Scott’s office Tuesday. Scott and other Republicans have been skeptical of global warming and the governor has worked with the GOP-controlled Legislature to dismantle climate change initiatives.
When a federal report earlier this year highlighted Florida — and Miami in particular — among the parts of the country most vulnerable to global warming and rising sea levels, Scott said: “I’m not a scientist” when asked about it.
In a statement about the letter, Scott said he was “focused on solutions we can implement to protect our land, water and families.”
“We have made environmental restoration a top priority – investing record amounts in the Everglades and Springs projects all across Florida, even many that were not prioritized by the previous administration,” he said.
During an unrelated bill signing event in Key Biscayne Wednesday, Scott told The Associated Press that much of his own family continues to live in Florida and that he hopes to preserve it for his grandchildren.
“I want to make sure this is a place where we’ll have a pristine environment that we all can enjoy,” Scott said.
The letter was signed by experts in marine systems, atmospheric sciences and other climate change-related fields at the University of Miami, Florida State University, Eckerd College and Florida International University.
“We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state,” the scientists wrote.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given Florida a target of cutting its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 38 percent by the year 2030, as part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce emissions nationwide by nearly a third over the next 15 years.
Florida will choose how to meet that goal, and the scientists wrote that they hoped to provide Scott with the latest climate science as the state prepares those plans.
“Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists — seekers of evidence and explanations,” the letter said.
The letter’s delivery was first reported by the Miami Herald.
Scott, who is running for re-election, has worked to dismantle climate change initiatives put into place by his predecessor and current opponent, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist.
Florida’s other top Republicans, including possible 2016 presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, also have challenged climate science.
The letter comes as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy lead a statewide “What’s your plan, Gov?” campaign seeking energy alternatives and transparency as state agencies work to meet the federal carbon pollution standards.
Associated Press writer Fernando Peinado in Key Biscayne contributed to this report.