TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Five scientists who met with Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday are convinced that climate change is real, but what they are less sure about is whether the governor believes them.
The scientists had 30 minutes to make a presentation in Scott's office and the first seven minutes were taken up by small talk.
"I bet you came here because we have lower taxes," Scott said after Ben Kirtman, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami, said he moved to Florida from California.
"No," Kirtman said. "I did come here because it's a great opportunity to do the kind of work I want to do. I'm a climate change modeler."
The scientists said that Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to rising sea levels and as such is in a position to be a world leader in preparing for it as well as seeking solutions to global warming through clean energy and reduced carbon emissions.
They asked for the meeting after Scott responded "I'm not a scientist" when asked by a reporter earlier this year about climate change.
Scott was shown graphs showing an enormous spike in greenhouse gasses since the industrial revolution and the corresponding rises in sea levels and temperatures. Scott listened politely and asked basic questions about the materials handed to him, but gave no indication whether he was concerned with or even believed the science he was shown.
"We can't wait," said David Hastings, a professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College. "We need strong leadership from your office and from you in particular to take action to minimize the losses we're so concerned about. We know that the costs for not taking action are quite large. We're seeing them now."
That includes groundwater contamination, flooding and dying coral reefs, he said.
A large group of reporters watched the presentation, but Scott didn't take their questions afterward, saying he had another appointment. His staff couldn't immediately say who he was meeting with.
The scientists are hoping their presentation will help prod Scott into responding to the federal Environmental Protection Agency's call to states to come up with a plan to reduce carbon emission by 38 percent.
"I'm inherently an optimist. I think it's fantastic that he met with us. I think it's fantastic that he had us come here. And I'm also a realist and I look forward to hearing what he's going to do and I'm concerned that he might not do anything," Hastings said.