An Awkward Invitation

Whatever misgivings he might have, Marco Rubio could not refuse an invitation from mayors of 12 Florida coastal communities to discuss their climate change concerns. Politics dictated that he meet with the mayors, several of whom are Republicans, to confer on a subject not as high on his agenda as on theirs.

The mayors sent a letter requesting a get-together by the end of February to seek Rubio's help in combating climate change-related rising sea levels. (Jeb Bush received a similar letter, but had not responded as of this writing.)

It made no difference that Senator Rubio has publicly questioned the validity of the root of the coastal flooding bedeviling these civic leaders. Indeed, if the senator had his druthers, this meeting would not intrude on his presidential campaign schedule. He does not publicly subscribe to the mayors' belief that recent increased coastal overwash is due to accelerated global warming resulting from human activity.

But being a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, Rubio can ill afford to ignore the concerns of political leaders in his state, including several Republican congressmen as well as the mayors.

So he agreed to the meeting even though it puts him in an awkward position. The conservative Republican base, with its powerful voice in the presidential primaries, is skeptical of any human-induced climate change threat. They tend to view extreme weather events as due to natural fluctuations. Any attempt to lay the blame on human-generated global warming is regarded as a democratic ploy to expand big government's control.

If pressed, Rubio and his fellow GOP presidential aspirants have voiced denial of any human culpability for whatever climate change is occurring, and that poses a big problem. Whoever wins the nomination will have to walk a fine line. He will have to appease the hard core party base while reassuring the majority of the general electorate he is not oblivious to their concerns that climate change is a legitimate threat of major proportions.

My guess is that without committing to human activity as the culprit, Rubio will promise the mayors that if elected president, he will provide emergency aid to deal with any damage from the elements,

But that won't get him or whoever else ends up as the nominee off the hook. In their letter, the mayors urge Rubio "to acknowledge the reality and urgency of climate change...and produce a realistic national plan to slow global warming emissions."

You can be sure that whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is will embrace that same message and be quick to exploit any reluctance on the Republican candidate's part to follow suit.

Reacting to the adverse impacts of climate change on a case by case basis as the eventual GOP presidential nominee is likely to advocate won't hack it in the general election. When it comes to dealing with an existential threat to our future quality of life, a Band-Aid will not be enough for a majority of Americans. They want a cure.