After four years in office, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has decided he cares about the environment. In fact, the Republican governor unveiled a new policy – his “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” plan – intended to expand investment in Everglades restoration, water supplies, and conservation.
An editorial out of Leesburg, Florida, took note of Scott’s sudden change of heart (thanks to reader B.A. for the tip).
…Scott has a problem. His record. As much as Floridians would like to believe the governor wants to become a champion for the environment, his record is inescapable.He dismantled the state’s growth planning agency and oversaw the weakening of the processes by which Florida controlled its often phenomenal expansion. He cut the Florida Forever program that he now touts by a whopping $305 million in his first budget. And as for water, he slashed the water management budget $700 million, eliminated hundreds of water management jobs and instructed his team to make it easier for businesses to get water consumption permits.The results were predictable. Florida’s lakes, rivers and shores are more polluted. The Indian River Lagoon is disaster that has taken hundreds of animal lives, all because Lake Okeechobee remains a cesspool for big agriculture and development. All on Scott’s watch.
And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that Florida’s governor has long been a climate denier. Asked recently to explain his perspective, all he could muster was, “I’m not a scientist.”
But that was the old Rick Scott. The new Rick Scott has discovered he loves the environment after all.
So what happened? The election-year calculus changed.
Rebecca Leber seems to have the right idea.
On the same day Next Generation – Tom Steyer’s political group – announced it would target Scott’s record, the GOP governor tried to bolster his environmental credentials by pledging a new fund to aid conservation efforts and to target polluters.What changed? Scott’s electorate includes coastal residents who face the front lines of global warming. And as Floridians experience climate change first hand, their understanding of the threat changes. Rather than looking at it as a far-away issue, they begin to feel the impacts in their livelihoods and homes. It’s no wonder that the Republican governor considers it bad politics to dismiss sea level rise when Florida’s entire south coast faces crucial decisions of how to adapt to the changing climate. Outside spending from Steyer has helped to bolster this message, after years of lopsided political spending from fossil fuel groups.
The electoral considerations are amazing, and to a very real degree, heartening. If Scott thought he could stick to his record on the environment and still win, he would, but he and his campaign team clearly believe otherwise.
And so, just three months before the governor faces re-election, Scott decides it’s in his interest to sing a new tune. Leber added, “Florida may turn out to be a case study in how politics is beginning to tip in climate activists’ favor.”
I’d just add that Rick Scott’s “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” plan, an obvious election-year gimmick, doesn’t even pay lip service to carbon pollution. Maybe the governor should spend more time with some scientists.