South Fla. Dems Hope Climate Talks Stem Sea Level Rise

Dec 8, 2015

President Obama is telling global leaders that the U.S. is taking the lead on combating climate change. But Congress would have to approve any money for the effort and Republicans are dead set against it. South Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart says the president knows he's deceiving world leaders.

“This is a president who seems to be, every day, more and more out of touch with the reality of the world. And so, you know, would it surprise me if the president went and promised things he couldn’t deliver? It wouldn’t surprise me,” Diaz-Balart says.

Diaz-Balart says there's actually bipartisan opposition to what the president is promising abroad.

“Well, it’s not always divided," he says. "Remember when the Democrats controlled the House and had 60 votes in the Senate? The president couldn’t get it done because the Democrats didn’t want to do it."

While the president was in Paris the House voted to block the EPA's new clean power plan which seeks to drastically reduce carbon coming from the nation's power plants. It passed but South Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo opposed it.

"When it comes to new power plants and new technology we must make the investments to promote cleaner energy and to protect the environment," Curbelo says.

Curbelo did vote to block those new emissions standards from hitting older power plants, though.

“Now to impose those same standards on old power plants seems overly burdensome and could really put in jeopardy the availability and really the price of energy for some residence throughout the country,” says Curbelo.

Democrats say the GOP is misguided. Florida Senator Bill Nelson can't understand his colleagues who continue to deny the science.

"Climate change is real and all you have to do is live in Florida and realize that over the past four decades the seas has risen 5 to 8 inches and now at the seasonal high tide is flooding the streets of Miami Beach," Nelson says. "I mean, it’s a real factor and we better get about doing something about it."

Nelson says the Paris talks are already proving fruitful.

“And the president has been successful talking with presidents of other countries, and they’re finally coming together. Look at the huge progress that China has made in recognizing the fact that they’ve got a real problem of polluting their air, and that it's affecting the health of their citizens and therefore they better join with other nations to do something about it," Nelson says.

South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel says local officials can't combat sea-level rise on their own.

“It’s obviously a real issue for people who live in South Florida," she says. "It requires international focus and will, because, you know, glaciers are melting. It’s not just because the actions of the United States -- of course, yes, we are big players -- but it is a worldwide problem."

South Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings says the Paris talks are laying the ground work for the next administration.

“[Obama]’s not going to be the president," Hastings says, "but the next president is also going to have to deal with carbon emissions, and is going to have to deal with China and India and other countries that are large producers of carbon emissions. So I applaud the President in his efforts in Paris."

If the Obama Administration reaches a binding agreement with global leaders to combat climate change, it will need to be approved by Congress. Analysts -- and scientists -- say makes the 2016 election that much more important.