Republican Senator Marco Rubio appeared on three separate Sunday shows this week in the devastating wake of Hurricane Michael in his state of Florida. CNN’s Jake Tapper was the only host to forcefully confront him about the moral imperative of taking action on climate change.
Like NBC’s Chuck Todd and CBS’ John Dickerson, who also interviewed Rubio Sunday morning, Tapper began with the impact of the storm on the senator’s constituents. But instead of moving on to other topics after some cursory questions, he dug in on the major factor that scientists agree are making hurricanes like this one both stronger and “wetter,” as President Donald Trump would put it. Dickerson did return to the issue near the end of his sit-down with Rubio, eliciting similar responses from the senator.
“Speaking of experts, we can't specifically say that Hurricane Michael was so strong and devastating because of climate change but there is scientific consensus that warmer waters are making storms such as Michael more devastating,” the State of the Union host told his guest. “A new report from the U.N. outlined a dire global forecast within the next 20 years, the Union of Concerned Scientists said that Florida could lose more than one million homes by the end of the century due to rising sea levels because of climate change, which they say is man made.”
“What do you say to constituents who ask why are you not one of the leaders in Congress on this issue?” Tapper asked.
“I would say that's not true,” Rubio said, arguing that there’s “no debate” about “sea level rise and changes in the climate,” which are “measurable.” But when it came to “how much of that is due to human activity” and “what policies” can be changed to deal with that human activity, he began to equivocate.
Rubio focused on the “mitigation” action he has pushed for to address issues like rising sea levels while refusing to address the root causes of climate change.
His comments were along the lines of the type of “doublespeak” he’s been expressing on this issue for years. “Of course the climate is changing. The climate is always changing,” he said at a campaign event more than four years ago, before using the word “mitigation” four times to describe his plan to address it.
“Do you believe it is, at least, in part man made?” Tapper asked.
“Yeah, look, scientists are saying that humanity and its behavior is contributing towards that,” Rubio answered. “I can't tell you to what percentage of that is due to human activity,” he added, echoing a form of GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott’s infamous “I’m not a scientist” defense.
“And I think many scientists would debate what percentage is attributable to man versus normal fluctuations,” Rubio added, without providing evidence, “but that there's actually a rise in sea level, that temperatures are warmer in the waters than they were 50, 80, 100 years ago, that's measurable. I don't think there's an honest debate about this. The response to me is what can we do about it?”
“Yeah, and in 20 years, are you going to be able to say to your children and my children, these are the three or four things I pushed for in Congress to help mitigate this factor?” the host wanted to know.
Without giving specifics, Rubio said in response, “No matter what we do with laws, if tomorrow we stopped all—say we went to all solar panels and did all that stuff, which is not realistic, this trend would still continue. So we're going to have to do something about the impact that it's having on low-level coastal areas.”
After that answer, which sounded a lot like surrender on doing anything to reverse the effects of climate change, Tapper moved on.
Fresh off the Pod Save America live taping from Miami for HBO, former Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted after the interview aired, “It’s never fully clear to me whether Marco Rubio is this dumb or just acts this dumb to fit in with a party that thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax to keep cashing those Koch checks.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article indicated that CBS host John Dickerson did not raise the issue of climate change during his interview with Sen. Rubio.