Climate scientists are lending their computer modeling and data analysis and research findings and learned assumptions to the new governor’s first state hurricane conference this week. Gov. Rick Scott seems fine with that, as long as the brainy guys confine their theories to the short term.
In his short speech opening the conference Wednesday, for example, Scott didn’t object to warnings that Florida is statistically likely to absorb a big hit in 2011. He promised Florida would be ready. “We’re going to be very prepared.”
Scott, however, only accepts climate science devoted to the upcoming hurricane season. When it comes to the long-term stuff – the overwhelming research that warns of man-made global warming – he remains Florida’s denier in chief.
Earlier this month in Copenhagen, 400 climate scientists mulled over new data and issued a warning that the melting of the Arctic ice cap was much more profound than they had previously thought. Among the other consequences, they warned, the world’s sea level will rise faster than earlier projections, least 2 feet 11 inches and perhaps as high as 5 feet 3 inches by 2100.
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Such findings might appear to be particularly interesting to the governor of a state with 95 percent of its population clustered within 35 miles of a 1,200-mile coastline. The notion of a hurricane storm surge rolling ashore atop higher seas ought to add another, urgent dimension to a Florida disaster preparedness agenda.
But no. We may have just endured the fourth hottest April in recorded history, surpassed only by the record-setting Aprils of 2005, 2007 and 2010 (according to those whacky scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Institute), but issues associated with global warming went unmentioned by the governor and his new director of emergency management at the 25th annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Scott’s predecessor, Charlie Crist, had called global warming “one of the most important issues that we will face this century.” Crist promised he would “bring together the brightest minds” and “place our state at the forefront of a growing worldwide movement to reduce greenhouse gases.”
Last week, Scott made it clear he thinks climate scientists must be lying. “I’ve not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change. Nothing’s convinced me that there is.”
The governor’s three-day conference keeps to the immediate issues concerning hurricane probabilities and preparations. Florida perilous long-term prospects aren’t on the agenda.
At least the annual gathering makes for a splendid trade show. Some 184 booths offered an astounding array of commercial products and services offered by a burgeoning disaster industry. Scott had hired emergency management czar Bryan Koon away from Walmart. Amid the mobile laundries and portable generators and liquid sand bags and gadget-laden communication trucks and inflatable light columns and giant trucks (to haul away the voluminous money paid for debris removal) and self-heating food packets and portable toilets that fold into backpacks, Walmart seemed the perfect training ground for Florida’s disaster prep.
And several booths featured elaborate post-disaster portable air conditioning systems. Just in case that global warming stuff turns out to be real.