Charlie Crist: “I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one”

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Charlie Crist knows how to work a storyline.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who as a Republican governor in 2007 said global warming was “one of the most important issues that we will face this is century,” was handed an opportunity to highlight a difference between himself and Gov. Rick Scott when Scott said, “I’m not a scientist,” in response to a question about climate change.  Friday, Crist met with one of the scientists who has offered to meet with Scott and discuss the issue.

“I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one,” said Crist, arriving for a 25-minute presentation by Professor Jeff Chanton of the Florida State University Earth and Atmospheric Science Department.

A consequence of global warming, which Chanton said correlates with an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane starting with the industrial revolution, is rising sea levels.

Billions of dollars of Florida real estate and roads are at risk as the sea moves inland. Much of the coastline is only a few feet above the current sea level, parts of Miami Beach is just two feet.  Broward,  Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties have formed the Southeast Regional Climate Change Compact to address the loss of fresh water wells and flooded storm water systems among other issues.

Chanton’s power point presentation illustrated historical climatic trends and the effect of a substantial increase in greenhouse gases dated to the industrial revolution.

He said during the 20th century the sea level was increasing at a rate of eight inches per 100 years. The current rate is 12 inches and the projection is it will be 17 inches per 100 years by 2100.

“I think 17 is the least we can expect,” said Chanton.

In 2008 Crist hosted a Climate Changed Summit and during his term signed three executive orders designed to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energy sources. He said Friday was about continuing a “dialogue” on the issue.

Scott’s campaign on Friday didn’t directly answer questions about whether the governor believes climate change exists and whether humans are causing or contributing to it.

“Charlie Crist may have perfected the art of publicity stunts, but his record on the environment is one of empty promises,” Matt Moon, the Scott campaign communication director said in an email. “While Rick Scott has kept his commitments to restoring the Everglades, safeguarding our springs and protecting the Florida Keys, Charlie Crist was more committed to advancing his own political career.”

After Crist’s separated from the Republican Party in 2010, a newly-elected Republican supermajority in the legislature reversed many of his policy initiatives on renewable energy and carbon emission reductions.

Now, as he seeks his old job, Crist has the potential to call a double reversal and reinstate his environmental policies.

 “Look at it this way, if we win,” he said when asked whether he relishes the possibility. “It’s going to send a message to the legislature and give us the opportunity to lead in a way that hasn’t happened around here for about three and half years.”