Florida scientists urge state leaders to join climate summit

By Bill Cotterell

By Bill Cotterell TALLAHASSEE (Reuters) - A group of 42 scientists from Florida universities submitted a joint letter on Thursday urging Governor Rick Scott and other state leaders to participate in a summit this fall to seek solutions for climate change. The group plans to host a conference of state and national policymakers and scientists Oct. 6 in Tampa, along with engineers and entrepreneurs who have "job-creating solutions." Scott, who is a Republican, has come under fire from environmentalists for not taking stronger action over sea level rise and climate change. Scott is running for re-election in November in a closely watched race against ex-Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democrat who is a firm believer in man-made global warming. In a meeting Scott held last month with a small group of climate scientists, the governor declined to take a position on global warming but said he was interested in solutions. A spokeswoman for Scott welcomed the summit but did not say if he would attend. "We think it's a great idea for them to have a summit ... and we look forward to reading their report," said Jackie Schutz. The letter was signed by scientists from six state universities, the University of Miami and Eckerd College. The scientists cited a recent National Climate Assessment that found Florida "exceptionally vulnerable" to sea level rise, extreme weather and lack of fresh water. "It is crucial for policymakers to understand that human activity is affecting the composition of the atmosphere,” the scientists wrote. "There is a clear need to develop a state plan to both mitigate and adapt to the threats to Florida’s communities, businesses, tourism industry and protect the state’s economic well-being," they added. Senate President Don Gaetz, also a Republican, had not seen the letter but said politics should be kept out of any such meeting. "I don’t mean to make a bad joke, but a climate-change summit is fine with me, as long as it’s not just a bunch of hot air," said Gaetz. "But if it’s a thoughtful discussion of what a state can do, that would be useful.” In their letter, the scientists cited recent carbon pollution limits set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calling for Florida to reduce its 2012 carbon-intensity level by 38 percent by the year 2030. (Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)