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Strip Politics From Global Warming Issue

by: S. CURT KISER    4 June 2006

One of the tactics most often used by the oil industry and others who oppose controlling global warming pollution is to try to reduce the debate to partisan politics -- to make it into a so-called wedge issue that divides Republicans and Democrats.

Never mind the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is real, is happening now and may already beginning to impact people's lives, especially in Florida.

Fortunately, a recent survey finds that, at least in Florida, public opinion matches the broad scientific consensus: Anglers and hunters, a conservative constituency, overwhelmingly agree that global warming is an urgent problem requiring immediate attention.

The survey, a scientific, nonpartisan poll, commissioned by the Florida Wildlife Federation, finds that nearly three out of four hunters and anglers want immediate action on global warming. Another 63 percent say the country is on the "wrong track" in meeting America's energy needs. More than eight out of 10 say the answer is conservation and expanding the use of renewable energy sources.

In a sense, these results aren't surprising. Anglers and hunters spend more time on the water and land than most people, and accordingly, are particularly sensitive to environmental changes. What may be surprising is that, in 2004, this group voted for President Bush over Senator Kerry by a 2-1 ratio. And that's the point. Despite the best efforts of global warming deniers to trivialize the issue by making it seem like mere politics, most Floridians, including conservatives, understand that global warming is a moral issue, not a partisan one.

It's a question of choosing to do nothing and saddling our children with the debt of stronger hurricanes, rising sea levels, prolonged red tides and coral bleaching, or stepping up to take action now to prevent those effects of global warming from happening. Regardless of their politics, the people closest to the land and water seem to understand that.

Anglers and hunters understand, too, that Florida probably has more to lose from global warming than any other state. Earlier this month two Caribbean coral species -- elkhorn and staghorn -- were added to the Endangered Species list because of the devastating effects of warmer waters. Those warmer waters will ultimately lead to more intense hurricanes, potentially making Category 5 storms like Hurricane Katrina an annual threat.

Very soon, global warming may impact Florida in a different way -- at the ballot box. Three out of five hunters and anglers surveyed said that they would more likely to vote for a gubernatorial candidate who pledged strong leadership on global warming, vs. a candidate who made no such pledge.

If Florida were to seize the initiative on global warming, it would send a signal to the rest of America that on an issue as important as climate change, we must lead, not follow.

The United States consumes one-fourth of the world's daily oil production, despite having only five percent of the world's population. Our oversized reliance on fossil fuels not only threatens our environment, but also our economy and national security.

Conservation and efficiency will do more than help avert danger -- they provide us with new opportunities. Imagine an America that leads the planet in renewable-power technology, thereby creating a market for U.S. innovation in a world thirsty for energy.

Given the inability of new oil discoveries to keep up with demand, the development of such technology is inevitable -- the only question is whether America will get there first, or let other countries lead the way.

Unfortunately, those who want to deny the existence of global warming continue to present false choices, including the one between taking action on climate change and growing our economy. It's the same crowd that wants Americans to believe global warming is nothing more than a liberal conspiracy. We in Florida don't have time for such nonsense. Regardless of our political beliefs, we know we owe it to our children to act now.

S. Curt Kiser is a former Republican senator for District 19 and was candidate for lieutenant governor. He is partner with the Holland & Knight law firm.

Have you seen the truth? 'An Inconvenient Truth' - watch the trailer here! The film eloquently weaves the science of global warming with Al Gore's personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global warming.