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Florida voters consider climate change and candidates' proposed solutions

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Of all the United States, Florida is among the most vulnerable to climate change - hurricanes, sea level rise, heat waves.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

And it's also solidly Republican, with a Republican governor, two Republican senators and Republican majorities in the state legislature. This fall, Florida is expected to vote for Donald Trump, who has questioned the existence of man-made climate change.

INSKEEP: Weekend Edition host Ayesha Rascoe saw those two facts in contradiction while visiting Florida, and she's on the line to talk about it. Hey there, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

INSKEEP: How was your trip?

RASCOE: It was very wet - extremely wet. This was not the Sunshine State when I visited it.

INSKEEP: Oh, OK.

RASCOE: Yeah. The day my team and I arrived in Miami, Miami got more than three inches of rain. The next day, they got more than six inches. So the streets even just to the hotel where I was staying was flooded. We couldn't park our car there, and the water was above my ankles. I was in a dress and sneakers. I had to wade through the water just to get there. My sneakers were soaked for days.

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

RASCOE: Now, we can't say that that rain was due to climate change. But what we can say is that, you know, storms and rising sea levels will make these flooding issues more likely in Miami, and it demonstrated how poor the drainage is in that area.

INSKEEP: It's reminding me, too, this is a low-lying state, and Miami has had trouble with flooding for years.

RASCOE: Yes. We spoke to one hairdresser, Gustavo Briand, who used to have a shop in the lowest part of a building in Miami Beach. And he said his shop flooded whenever it rained hard.

GUSTAVO BRIAND: Whenever it rained, there was 65% chances that the shop would be flooded. And at one point, really, we didn't even bother to go and dry it. We just worked like that.

RASCOE: So he cut hair in flip-flops and, like, standing in a couple of inches of water.

INSKEEP: Wow.

RASCOE: And, you know, customers, though - the customers were dedicated to getting those haircuts, 'cause they would go even in the standing water.

INSKEEP: OK, not everybody can move. So how are elected officials responding to this?

RASCOE: So some elected officials say they are doing a lot. Like, we visited the mayor of Monroe County in the Florida Keys, Holly Raschein, a Republican. She has a wish list of about $5 billion of things that she wants to do, like raising the roads to protect against rising sea levels and and cleaning out canals.

HOLLY RASCHEIN: What person or new resident or somebody who already lives in Florida doesn't want a restored Everglades, who don't want clean water or a water supply that's sufficient for their community, a resilient reef, a strong fishery?

RASCOE: But those things are really called resilience, like, they're protecting the state from the effects of climate change. Florida Republicans have not done much when it comes to actually trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change in the first place. And in May, they actually changed the state's energy policy to direct the state to boost the use of natural gas. Now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the policy is driven by affordability and reliability as opposed to, quote, "climate ideology."

INSKEEP: That's Weekend Edition host Ayesha Rascoe, who will have the full report from Florida on the radio on Weekend Edition Sunday.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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