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The dangers of climate change denial

Here in Florida, we're experiencing the impacts of climate change first hand. Sea level rise has caused flooding in Miami to be a regular occurrence. Hurricanes are more frequent and severe. In the past five years, Florida has seen five natural disasters that qualified for disaster declaration by the Federal Emergency Management Administration. And yet, Senator Marco Rubio claims "the climate has always changed."

A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund showed that more than 202 million – or 63 percent – of all Americans are represented in Congress by someone who denies the science behind climate change. This stands in stark contrast to poll after poll showing that more than 67 percent of all Americans support taking action to address climate change.

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Here's a science lesson for Senator Rubio: Power plants are our nation's biggest source of carbon pollution. And while we limit many other pollutants from power plants, the U.S. only last year finalized standards for carbon pollution. Carbon pollution from power plants drives climate change and its impacts, like extreme weather, wildfires, severe drought, and rising seas. A recent study from Rutgers University showed that seas rose faster during the last century than at any time during the previous 2,700 years. And with the three to four feet of sea level rise scientists predict by 2100, nearly $346 billion of Florida property is at risk.

That's why I recently joined 20 other mayors from across the state to ask Senator Rubio to stop playing politics with our future, and to instead take the lead to address climate change. Cities in south Florida and across the U.S. are already taking steps to address the impacts of climate change in their communities, but that is not nearly enough. We're counting on national leaders like Senator Rubio and others in Congress to take meaningful action.

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Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently finalized the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards to reduce carbon pollution that drives climate change. But climate deniers in Congress stand in the way of this progress, all while pocketing more than $73 million in campaign contributions from dirty energy. And recently, several climate deniers moved to further block the Clean Power plan by supporting a lawsuit to stop it completely.

These actions are simply unacceptable. Miami sees nuisance flooding of about six inches on a regular basis, and over the next several years that will only increase. We simply don't have time for members of Congress to continue denying the facts. Because whether they accept the science or not, climate change is here and human activity significantly contributes to it. It's time for Florida's leaders to stand up and face this challenge head on to protect Florida and her people – not the polluters who fill their campaign coffers.

Cindy Lerner is Mayor of the Village of Pinecrest, Florida.

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