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What will Florida’s climate-change-denying pols learn from Hurricane Ian?

Boats sit grounded in a woodland area and along the side of the road after being pushed by rising water from Hurricane Ian near Fort Myers Beach on Sept. 29, 2022, in San Carlos Island, FLA. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

We all know that MAGA 2.0 Ayatollah Ron DeSantis takes a strong interest in what gets taught in Florida schools. But now that Hurricane Ian has wreaked virtually unprecedented havoc on the west side of his state, it’s time for him to sit in a class and get schooled on the basics of science.

Lesson One: Human folly is driving climate change, and climate change is making hurricanes more severe. That’s because warm tropical waters – the primary source of fuel for hurricanes – are warmer than ever. And that’s because those waters are absorbing most of the extra heat generated by greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, ambient air temperatures are also rising, which means the air can hold more water vapor.

Translation: Humans are warming the seas, the warmer seas make the air warmer, the warmer air triggers more precipitation… it’s basic science, not rocket science.

But DeSantis is deaf to reality and on record denouncing climate change as “left-wing stuff.” When asked last December whether his state should take steps to fight climate change – by, say, encouraging green technology and cutting carbon emissions – his answer was: “We’re not doing any left-wing stuff.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Screenshot,: KXAN News.

Actually, it’s been clear for nearly a decade that even the Pentagon believes in “left-wing stuff.” A 2014 Pentagon report warned: “As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating.”

That report was preceded by a 2013 U.S. Energy Department report that linked human-based climate change to the increasing frequency of “more intense storm events,” and that report was preceded by a 2012 insurance industry report that linked human-based climate change to a growing pattern of “intense precipitation events.” Indeed, the insurance industry said, “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.”

The reports are too numerous to mention.

Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, after studying satellite images dating back to 1979, concluded that human-driven climate change has made hurricanes far more destructive. In the words of NOAA lead author James Kossin, “The trend is there and it is real. There’s this remarkable body of evidence that we’re making these storms more deleterious.”

But alas, Florida is a red state condemned to consequences. And its flat-earth Republicans have long been determined to keep it that way.

When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was asked eight years ago whether he agreed with the scientific consensus that human-driven climate change was real, he told ABC News: “I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists …What they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and solely attributable to man-made activity…I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.”

Rubio’s Senate colleague is Sen. Rick Scott. When Scott was the governor of Florida, his favorite tactic, when asked about climate change, was to simply say, “I’m not a scientist.”

Which meant that he had no intention of listening to scientists. He applauded Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. He also reportedly banned the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” from state documents and websites. He also signed a law that allows any Florida resident to file a legal complaint if a school in that resident’s county teaches climate change.

Scott was rewarded by the voters, who made him a senator. DeSantis is up for re-election in November, and is expected to win. Rubio is up for re-election in November is expected to win. Floridians – including those currently swimming inside their homes – have gotten the governance they wanted.

But fear not, Floridians. Your governor is now an instant socialist, pleading for disaster relief dollars from the federal government he routinely derides. And he’ll get whatever help he needs, because the current president doesn’t malign states that didn’t vote for him, or throw paper towels, or try to redraw the path of hurricanes with a Sharpie.

Oh, one other thing: Did I forget to mention that when DeSantis was a member of the U.S. House, he voted against sending federal relief aid to New Jersey and New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy?

Sorry for that oversight. We’re done here.

Cagle Syndicate Photo

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net and is a contributor to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, which first published this commentary.

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What will Florida’s climate-change-denying pols learn from Hurricane Ian?