President Barack Obama on Wednesday plans to visit the Everglades — the South Florida wetlands that form part of the state’s large tourism sector —- to promote his policies combating climate change, a major piece of his second-term agenda.
Since Republicans in Congress have blocked legislative action on climate, Obama has begun issuing executive orders and enacting new regulations under his existing power. He’s taken steps to limit carbon emissions and greenhouse gases that scientists say are causing global warming.
As part of the effort to sell his policies, the White House has sought to highlight the real-time effects of climate change, including how it degrades Americans’ health and its potential to alter property values.
On Wednesday, Obama plans to highlight the potential for a changing climate to wreak havoc on local economies. He said in his weekly address Saturday the Everglades are particularly vulnerable to the economic aftermath of a changing planet.
“Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure — and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry — at risk,” he said.
Brian Deese, Obama’s senior adviser on climate change, explained in an email to Obama supporters Monday that even a small increase in water levels could wash out the popular tourist attraction.
“The Everglades are flat, and they border a rising ocean,” Deese wrote. “As the sea levels rise, the shorelines erode, and that salty water travels inland, threatening the aquifers supplying fresh drinking water to Floridians. That doesn’t just destroy a beautiful and unique national landscape. It threatens an $82 billion state tourism economy, and drinking water for more than 7 million Americans — more than a third of Florida’s population.”
Obama is working to make climate policy a key part of his presidential legacy. He struck a landmark deal with China last year on reducing carbon emissions, and the White House is working toward exacting commitments from other countries ahead of December’s climate summit in Paris.
Republicans, some of whom deny humans are responsible for climate change, have resisted his actions and said they amount to job-killers. Florida junior Sen. Marco Rubio, a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has cast doubt on scientists’ assertions that humans’ actions have played a role in warming temperatures.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a likely candidate for the GOP nomination, said in New Hampshire on Friday that “the climate is changing” but that the solutions aren’t clear.
Bush said “it’s legitimate to question” some climate models but that one can not “deny the fact that the climate is changing.”