California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) hit back at criticism over his state's minimum wage increase from Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Monday, telling Scott to "stop the silly political stunts" and instead focus on his state's struggle with climate change.
In April, Scott's administration released a radio ad urging California businesses to consider moving to Florida to avoid the state's new wage floor, which will reach $15 an hour by 2022. Scott then announced he would travel to California himself and personally court businesses in the state.
In a letter responding to Scott, Brown highlighted a 2015 report focusing on the effects of global warming in the southeastern U.S., including Florida.
Brown is one of the country's leading environmental advocates, and has made fighting climate change the cornerstone of his political legacy. Last year, he signed historic legislation that mandates half the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.
"While you’re enjoying a stroll on one of California’s beautiful beaches this week, don’t stick your head in the sand. Take a few minutes to read the rest of this report," Brown wrote in his letter to Scott. "There’s no time to waste."
The report Brown mentioned was commissioned by the Risky Business Project, a coalition started by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire hedge fund manager-turned-climate activist Tom Steyer and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The group aims to highlight climate change's impact on the U.S. economy.
According to the Risky Business Project's analysis, Florida is already facing "serious risks" from flooding and storms, and climate change will only exacerbate those threats.
"By 2030, up to $69 billion in coastal property will likely be at risk of inundation at high tide that is not at risk today," reads the report.
Researchers also found that Florida is likely to experience more storm damage and "extremely dangerous" heat if current warming trends continue.
Other reports, including a 2014 National Climate Assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and a 2010 report by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, have also warned of the state's vulnerability to climate change-related damage.
Despite these alarming trends, Scott has not acknowledged the threat of climate change. When asked in 2014 if he believes climate change is man-made and significant, he said he's "not a scientist."
Last year, rumors surfaced that the governor had banned the phrases "climate change" and "global warming" from official state publications. Scott denied this, but would not say if he believes global warming is a problem in his state.
According to the Florida governor's office, Scott is expected to respond to Brown's letter later today.
Read Brown's full letter below:
Dear Governor Scott,
I’m writing to welcome you back to California – a state that in the last year has added more jobs than Florida and Texas combined. We’re home to Hollywood, Silicon Valley and more than 50 Fortune 500 companies. We attract more than half of the nation’s venture capital investment, win more than a quarter of the nation’s patents and grow much of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. Our budget is balanced. We’re paying down debt and building a solid rainy day fund.
Rick, a fact you’d like to ignore: California is the 7 largest economic power in the world. We’re competing with nations like Brazil and France, not states like Florida.
If you’re truly serious about Florida’s economic wellbeing, it’s time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change – two words you won’t even let state officials say. The threat is real and so too will be the devastating impacts.
To help you get a better grasp on things, I’m enclosing a recent report authored by the Risky Business Project, a nonpartisan climate initiative led by Hank Paulson, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer. It’s titled, “Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas,” and finds:
“Florida faces more risk than any other state that private, insurable property could be inundated by high tide, storm surge and sea level rise. By 2030 up to $69 billion in coastal property will likely be at risk of inundation at high tide that is not at risk today. By 2050, the value of property below local high tide levels will increase to up to about $152 billion.”
The report also notes that Florida’s economy could suffer billions of dollars in additional losses as labor productivity drops and storm damage mounts due to extreme weather events.
So, while you’re enjoying a stroll on one of California’s beautiful beaches this week, don’t stick your head in the sand. Take a few minutes to read the rest of this report. There’s no time to waste.
Edmund G. Brown Jr.