Despite hysterical claims by the far left about the “imminent” end of the world, Floridians understand the importance of serious-minded environmental stewardship and climate preparedness.
The Sunshine State faces these challenges daily. Every Floridian knows that natural infrastructure like mangrove forests, wetlands, sand dunes, and coral reefs provide critical resilience against extreme weather events when compared to man-made infrastructure. That is why restoring these ecosystems and defending our state’s natural resources are among my top priorities in the U.S. Senate.
Water, and the aquatic habitats it sustains, is the beating heart of Florida’s culture and economy. For this reason, I have consistently worked to secure funding and authorizations for ecosystem restoration projects like Everglades restoration and repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike. These projects help to improve natural water flows that benefit mangrove forests and wetlands, as well as reduce the impacts of harmful algal blooms on our waterways, estuaries, and coral reefs, improving coastal resilience and environmental quality across the state.
Finding ways to mend Florida’s ailing coral reef tract, the third largest barrier reef in the world, is also vital. A recently published report by the U.S. Geological Survey sheds light on how crucial these reefs are to coastal resilience, estimating that American coral reefs provide hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of coastal flood mitigation benefits annually and safeguard the lives of more than 18,000 Americans from storm surge and coastal flooding events.
When it comes to restoring our corals, there’s still much work to be done. Because of deadly new diseases and environmental stressors, live corals only cover about 3% of the Florida Reef Tract, compared to historical estimates of 30 to 40%. It’s why I’ve reintroduced the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act, which would reauthorize the now-expired Coral Reef Conservation Act and implement reforms to heal and grow our reefs.
Gaining a comprehensive perspective on Florida’s climate resilience against sea level rise and storm surge is also important. To that end, in 2016 I championed the authorization of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ South Atlantic Coastal Study. The study is ongoing, and the report to Congress is expected soon. Similarly, I’ve requested a restudy of the Central and Southern Florida project for flood control, which hasn’t been reassessed in over 70 years — meaning the current flood control strategy fails to take new Everglades projects, sea level rise, and changing weather patterns into account. Further, as Congress deliberates over infrastructure legislation, I continue to advocate that states should be able to use existing infrastructure program monies, such as the National Highway Performance Program, for resilience improvements.
However, as discussions over climate continue, it is critical for policymakers to focus on realistic solutions. Green New Deal-style catastrophism and apocalyptic predictions about the world ending in 12 years understandably cause Americans to tune out.
Additionally, many of Democrats’ favorite climate policies would be a boon for their corporate donors, but death knell for small businesses and start-ups. Carbon tax proposals, for example, enjoy the support of many large corporations that can afford it, but would risk squeezing out many small business competitors.
America needs policies that make us more competitive, not less. President Biden’s infrastructure plan calls for extensive solar development but lacks sufficient provisions to make sure it doesn’t simply end up a giveaway to China, which, with government subsidies and forced labor from Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities, produces the bulk of the world’s solar panel components. This is unacceptable.
Likewise, it makes zero sense to pursue policies that run counter to established science. The Biden Administration has waged war on American natural gas production in the name of climate action. However, carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion actually decreased by over 12 percent between 2005 and 2019, thanks in large part to the shale revolution and increased natural gas usage. By undermining natural gas production, President Biden is blatantly contradicting his goal of reducing carbon emissions and ignoring basic science to placate his most radical supporters.
Strengthening our environment need not be a partisan issue. That’s why I’ve worked with Democrats and Republicans alike to advance commonsense proposals in Congress and serve as a member of the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Advancing realistic legislation to make our communities more resilient — while preventing America from falling prey to predatory corporate and left-wing climate catastrophism — is hard work, but within our reach. Delivering clean land, air, and water for future generations of Americans is a priority too important to squander.
• Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, is the Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence and Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues. He also serves on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Special Committee on Aging, and the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.