About 250 people turned out Monday afternoon for a conference on climate change inspired by Gov. Rick Scott to talk about solutions ranging from alternate energy sources to coping with sea-level rise.
The Florida Climate Science and Solutions Summit, held at Eckerd College, brought together scientists, government officials and entrepreneurs to discuss what’s worked and what has not as the atmosphere and oceans heat up.
Three of the four climate scientists who were on the first panel of the conference were part of a group that met with the governor in August to talk to him about climate change. When Scott took office in 2011 he was openly skeptical about climate change, but while seeking re-election he has replied to questions about his position by saying, “I’m not a scientist.”
When the climate scientists met with Scott, he did not commit to any change in his stance, but said he was more interested in solutions than anything else. That prompted Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to work with Eckerd officials in setting up the conference.
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At one point, moderator Rob Lorei of WMNF-FM asked the scientists if they’re part of a vast conspiracy to promote an unproven theory just to rake in big-dollar government grants. Ben Kirtman of the University of Miami said, “Shoot, we can barely agree on anything.”
But they all agree that greenhouse gas emissions from humans are causing the climate to change and the seas to rise, the scientists said.
During the summit, Florida officials’ lack of support for promoting alternatives to oil and coal energy, especially compared to other states such as Georgia, was a repeated theme. Chris Delp, for instance, noted that he works for a solar and wind-power company called WTEC that’s based in Tampa — but that’s only because it’s where the company president lives.
“When we go build solar farms, we get on planes and go fly to other states,” said Delp, who was on a panel moderated by Tampa Bay Times reporter Ivan Penn.
At the end of the conference, St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice invited people in the audience to propose solutions, and people lined up at microphones. Suggestions ranged from supporting light rail projects such as Greenlight Pinellas to enhancing wetlands and sea grass beds, which naturally absorb carbon emissions.
Glickman said the list of ideas will be compiled and submitted to Scott.