President Obama took a shot at Florida Governor Rick Scott's alleged ban on state employees using the phrase "climate change," saying it was an issue that "cannot be edited out" and "cannot be omitted from the conversation."
"Simply refusing to say the words 'climate change' doesn't mean that climate change isn't happening," Obama said in a speech at Everglades National Park. "If you've got a coming storm, you don't stick your head in the sand; you prepare for the storm."
Obama marked Earth Day with a climate change speech in Florida, a state that is facing the immediate impact of global warming.
Scott—who did not accept an invitation to attend the speech or meet Obama when he landed—has been lambasted by the left for reports that he has barred state employees from even using the phrase "climate change." Scott has denied the charges and last week the state's incoming environmental chief said the phrase three times to make a point that there was no such ban.
Speaking to reporters on the way to Florida, deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said that if the reported ban wasn't true, then the White House looked forward "to them contributing to the discussion on one of the greatest threats that we face."
"If the Scott administration is now joining the rest of us in confirming the impacts of climate change on both the environment, on the energy sectors and also, as I pointed out, in terms of the economy, we welcome that change of position on the governor's part," Schultz said.
Florida is also the home of presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, a skeptic of man-made climate change, and presumed candidate Jeb Bush, a former governor. Bush last week said he was "concerned" about climate change, but questioned some of the science that says humans are contributing.
Scott on Tuesday also criticized the White House for a backlog in federal funding for Everglades restoration.
Obama, who has made climate change a second term priority, has increasingly called out Republicans who reject the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. In Florida, the President referenced the snowball thrown by Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe on the Senate floor, saying that even if it was cold in Washington, it was the warmest winter globally in recorded history.
Obama also highlighted bipartisan support for national parks like the Everglades, cautioning that they faced a risk from rising sea levels. "Part of the reason we're here is because climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of south Florida," Obama said.
"And if we don't act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it," he added.
Obama also used the speech to highlight the National Park Service, announcing $26 million for restoration at parks across the country and pointing to a report that says visitors last year poured $15.7 billion into surrounding communities.
Telling the crowd that climate change threatened the parks—which he said were "your birthright as Americans"—Obama urged politicians to work together to address the threat of extreme weather. He pointed to a bipartisan coalition started years ago in Florida to deal with rising sea level and intense storms as evidence that both parties could work together on the environment.
"This is not some impossible problem that we cannot solve," Obama said. "We can solve it if we've got some political will."
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