Climate change hasn’t gotten much air time during the 2016 presidential election , but that changed Tuesday afternoon in Florida when Hillary Clinton and Al Gore appeared together at Miami Dade College.
“Our next president will either step up to protect our planet, or we will be dragged backwards and our whole planet will be put at risk,” said Clinton to an enthusiastic crowd of students and supporters.
On the heels of Hurricane Matthew , which set records as the longest-lived category 4-5 hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean and Western Atlantic, and the longest-lived major hurricane that formed after Sept 25, former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore said, “When it comes to the most urgent issue facing our country and the world, the choice in this election is extremely clear. Hillary Clinton will make solving our climate crisis a top priority. Her opponent will take us toward a climate catastrophe.”
Gore, remembering Hurricane Andrew, which struck Florida in 1992 as he and the Clintons campaigned for office, noted that, since then, the sea level in the Florida waters has risen three inches. The rate of sea-level rise has tripled over the last 10 years. At the time, Hurricane Andrew was the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. The category 5 hurricane killed 44 in Florida and was the costliest disaster in the state’s history.
Miami is highly vulnerable to climate change. With 441,000 people, it sits just six feet above sea level. Its highest elevation is only 42 feet. In the past 10 years, flooding in Miami Beach from high tides has quadrupled. On a regular basis, ocean waters invade streets, damage cars and disrupt business.
“It’s become a daily reality here in Miami,” said Clinton. “You have the streets flood at high tide, and the ocean is bubbling up through the sewer system.”
The former Secretary of State also pointed to the need to address the challenges brought on by climate change, saying, “We need to invest in resilient infrastructure.” Ironically, South Florida is moving forward on an aggressive plan that acknowledges climate change in a state where Florida officials are prohibited from even using the term under the administration of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
“In this election, the future of Miami and cities up and down the east and west coast of Florida are on the ballot as well,” Gore said. He stressed the importance of voting, taking from his personal experience in the state in 2000. “Your vote really, really, really counts,” he said emphatically. The event today was the first time that Gore has publicly campaigned for Clinton in this election.
The Miami appearance yesterday comes just ahead of the now-extended voter registration deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday. A court order was required to provide additional time for Florida voters—many of whom evacuated or were displaced by Hurricane Matthew—to register, after Gov. Scott refused to extend the deadline. Florida is a key battleground state, with 29 electoral votes. Fivethirtyeight gives Hillary Clinton a 71 percent chance of carrying the state as of today.
Clinton sketched out her plan for dealing with climate change during her remarks, “I want to see 500 million more solar panels installed across America by the end of my first term, and have enough renewable energy to power every home within 10 years,” she said. She also noted that renewable energy is now the fastest growing source of new jobs in the U.S., and warned that if America doesn’t step up, either Germany or China will become “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.”
Before the two embraced and walked off the stage, Gore concluded by saying, “We have the opportunity to look back on this year as the time when our nation chose to finally answer the alarm bells on the climate crisis.”