In Miami-Dade, GOP candidates must address climate change in debate


Thursday, Coral Gables will host the next GOP presidential debate just a few days before Florida’s presidential primary. As the mayors of Miami and Coral Gables, we are proud of our cities and look forward to welcoming the candidates for an exciting forum at the beautiful University of Miami campus.

With all the national attention coming to South Florida, we encourage the candidates to address an issue that’s been given scant serious attention in this election, but that is vital to our future here: global warming.

To date, all of this year’s Republican presidential candidates either have rejected global warming outright or dismissed any solutions as too difficult or too expensive.

As staunch Republicans, we share our party’s suspicion of government overreach and unreasonable regulations. But for us and most other public officials in South Florida, climate change is not a partisan talking point. It’s a looming crisis that we must deal with — and soon.

Sea levels off the coast of Florida rose about eight inches in the 20th century. As a result, we have seen worsening tidal flooding, more severe storm surges, and saltwater intrusion into our aquifers. This is just the beginning. We expect to see a foot or more of sea-level rise by 2050, a level that will make large areas of South Florida uninhabitable. By the end of the century, four to six feet of flooding could make this region unrecognizable.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that the rising sea levels are caused by the planet warming, that the burning of fossil fuels is driving this warming, and that we need to act quickly to avoid the worst impacts ahead.

These are the facts. We shouldn’t waste time debating them.

What we can debate — even if the candidates are unlikely to do so on Thursday — is how to respond. We can debate ways to develop clean energy, how to put a price on carbon and how to protect coastline communities from flooding and storms. We can debate ways to grow the economy and create new jobs while protecting lives and property from climate change.

However, neither of us expect to hear those debates on Thursday, which we find frustrating.

This is why we joined a bipartisan group of 21 mayors in Florida who are urging debate organizers to include questions on climate change throughout the debate. This is a serious concern for our state, and the nation’s next president should care about the concerns of the people who elected him or her. The debate will give candidates an opportunity to address these concerns and show the residents of Florida that they are proactive in safeguarding our state’s livelihood.

As the nation turns its eyes to Florida in preparation for its presidential primary, we hope that the candidates coming here will start paying attention to the threat posed by global warming.

Tomas Regalado is the mayor of Miami. James Cason is the mayor of Coral Gables.