President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement on Thursday is a clear rejection of reality, and a cynical embrace of falsehoods and fantasy. Human activity is contributing to climate change. Its effects, expected to only worsen over time, are happening right now in South Florida. Hiding from that reality will not change it.
And if the near-universal conclusions of climate scientists aren’t enough for him, perhaps he should consult with the property appraisers or insurance companies in South Florida who are already factoring sea level rise into their home value assessments. After all, he claims to know a thing or two about real estate.
Ask any of my constituents about an experience they’ve recently had with flooding, and you’ll likely get a lengthy story. Listen to enough stories about South Florida’s ever-increasing king tides, and you’ll hear about fish swimming in the streets.
In February, Broward County ordered the drawing of new flood maps to include predictions of higher waters. The city of Fort Lauderdale has already increased the height requirement for sea walls and raised the elevation of home sites. Miami Beach’s climate plan involves building elevated roads and installing pumps to keep out saltwater. In short, South Floridians don’t have the option of denying climate change; we deal with its realities every day.
One of those sad realities regards how climate change will harm the Florida Everglades — the protection of which has long been a bipartisan endeavor. Yet the president’s ignorance of climate change will undoubtedly mean further salinization because of sea level rise, threatening species that have long thrived in the Everglades — many of which are found only in South Florida. Additionally, sea level rise is directly linked to the increased erosion endangering our beautiful beaches and vital tourism industry.
For South Florida, climate change is both personal and potentially deadly. Scientists warn that warmer oceans will result in more frequent and intense hurricanes. Warming climates also foster the spread of life-threatening diseases and provide a more fertile breeding ground for mosquito populations, hosts of the Zika virus.
It should be noted that while Trump is busy blatantly ignoring climate change, his budget proposal also slashes funding for the very federal agencies monitoring storms, responding to crises, and engaging in lifesaving disease prevention and medical research. By refusing to fight climate change, and stripping the resources needed to address its effects, Donald Trump is delivering a one-two gut punch to South Floridians.
Sadly, the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is only the latest anti-science, anti-conservation policy to emerge from the Trump administration. This is a president who appointed a vocal climate science denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency, then removed a majority of scientists from the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors. This is an administration that has worked to erode the safeguards protecting clean air and clean water at every opportunity — including gutting key funding for Everglades protection and restoration.
By abdicating our commitment to address climate change, Trump is doing his best to ensure that other countries leapfrog the U.S. in creating clean energy and green jobs – the future of the world’s energy economy. The United States simply cannot compete in a 21st century global economy by clinging to a 20th century energy policy.
While Donald Trump claims that pulling out of the Paris Agreement is somehow good for the economy, nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a reason the business community and labor unions came together to strongly urge the President to remain a part of the agreement: renewable energy is a massive job creator. The latest estimates show nearly 260,000 Americans work in solar energy at over 9,000 companies in every state in the country and that number is growing each year.
While Trump continues to defy common sense and appease his big polluter friends, it’s inspiring to see so many mayors, governors, university presidents, and business leaders who aren’t willing to accompany him down such a foolish path.
Unfortunately, those of us following this administration closely have come to expect the worst from President Trump, and he seems incapable of defying that expectation. Although he is unwilling to safeguard our clean air and water, I remain ready and willing to work hand-in-hand with anyone who is committed to protecting our planet for future generations. Our children and grandchildren did not create this problem. We cannot in good conscience leave them to solve it on their own.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents 23rd Congressional District.