TALLAHASSEE — After a 30-minute meeting Tuesday with Gov. Rick Scott, five university scientists remained skeptical he’s giving the idea of man-made climate change serious consideration.
“There was in fact no acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue,” said David Hastings, a professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. “He did not reflect on the science, either.”
Each of the five scientists took five minutes to give a presentation to Scott about their area of expertise. After the meeting, Scott didn’t ask them any questions nor meet with reporters, who were in the room for the entire meeting.
When asked in the past about his view on man-made climate change, Scott has said he is “not a scientist.” He initially declined to meet with the climate scientists.
At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, Scott asked the scientists what they teach and what kinds of jobs their students end up with, but didn’t delve into the science of the issue.
The message the five scientists brought was dire.
“It is the most serious problem that the state of Florida and the world has,” said John Van Leer, associate professor of ocean sciences at the University of Miami.
The group said rising sea level is already affecting Florida’s coastal communities.
“Sea level rise is lapping at my door, literally,” Van Leer said. “This is not something for the vague future. This is happening now.”
The group praised new federal guidelines that require states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by specific amounts. In Florida, it’s 38 percent by 2030. They liked the plan but aren’t sure Scott is taking action.
“I’m concerned he might not do anything,” said Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami. “This is a very forward-thinking plan.”
Democrat Charlie Crist, who is likely to face Scott in the November election, has said he believes in climate change. He met with climate scientists in Gainesville and Tallahassee last month.
The meeting also comes amid mounting political pressure as billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has pledged to spend up to $10 million against Scott’s re-election campaign. Steyer, who founded the group NextGen Climate, is spending money in seven races across the country to make global warming a bigger political issue.