During his speech on Tuesday, President Obama called for a market-based approach towards solving the climate crisis, stressing the economic as well as environmental benefits that derive from investments in clean energy. In response, Rubio attacked cap and trade legislation as an economic menace that would cripple the recovery, and he repeated the claim again this morning:
RUBIO: The government can’t change the weather. I said that in the speech. We can pass a bunch of laws that will destroy our economy, but it isn’t going to change the weather. Because, for example, there are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point, China, India, all these countries that are still growing. They’re not going to stop doing what they’re doing. America is a country, it’s not a planet. So we can pass a bunch of laws or executive orders that will do nothing to change the climate or the weather but will devastate our economy.
In fact, Rubio is wrong that “there are other countries that are polluting in the atmosphere much greater than we are at this point.” There is only one — China — and it is still a long way away from reaching America’s level of cumulative carbon pollution, and it is the total pollution emitted to date that drives climate change. That’s why it is so important America lead the way on climate action.
Rubio’s anti-science rhetoric is no surprise since he has also expressed skepticism towards the nearly universal consensus among scientists that humans have played a detrimental role in climate change.
While Rubio is right that America is not a planet, he is wrong to suggest that cap and trade — which has in the past enjoyed bipartisan support — would hinder economic growth. In fact, just last week a consortium of 9 northeastern states and the privately owned energy companies that power them announced they would be expanding a regional cap and trade system that has been in place since 2008, citing the positive economic and environmental benefits reaped over the last five years.
Rubio himself sought to turn Florida into “the Silicon Valley” of the green energy industry, lauding the state’s push for a version of cap and trade legislation as a potential moneymaker for Floridian businesses during a 2008 floor speech. There is also ample evidence to suggest that investments in renewable energy would help create millions of jobs and quicken the economic recovery, not hamper it as Rubio claims.
As President Obama noted in his address, other countries — China included — have raced ahead of the United States in the development of clean, alternative energy. And in Europe, countries like Germany have taken far greater strides than the U.S in solar energy, producing as much as 80 times more electricity relative to energy consumption through photovoltaic panels as compared to the United States.