After meeting with climate scientists in his office in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon, Rick Scott was mum with the press immediately afterwards on what the half-hour encounter actually meant to him regarding his thoughts about climate change. The Governor has dismissed the idea that human beings have anything to do with the earth's rising temperatures, so the meeting was considered a breakthrough of sorts.
But since he didn't speak about it on Tuesday, Scott undoubtedly was aware that the issue would be the focus of a brief media availability at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning, following a news conference where he touted the $10.4 billion he intends to invest in operations, maintenance and existing roadway resurfacing and bridge maintenance projects.
"I had a very good meeting yesterday," Scott replied when asked by Fox 13's Craig Patrick if he now believes that climate change is caused by human activity. "I listened to their presentation. What I want to talk to you about is not causation so much, but solutions. I'm a solutions person. We've made big investments - we've increased our investments on beach nourishment by 45 percent over Charlie Crist. We've spent $350 million in flood mitigation. We've spent $100 million to protect our reefs. Charlie Crist didn't invest a dime. We have record funding for springs. I've also come out with my environmental policy that's talking about $500 million for new springs. We already have a record amount invested in springs. $500 million to focus on alternative water sources. We've got to continue to solve these problems."
Patrick immediately returned the volley: "What about carbon emissions? What more will you do if anything to reduce carbon emissions?"
"So, what I've actually been ready to come forward with is any solutions," Scott responded a bit awkwardly. "We've got to continue to make sure that we have the most pristine environment in the world. We all want to live here. We love our state. And so we're going to continue to look at ways...ways that we can improve that. I know the federal govt. is looking at some ways also."
This reporter then interjected, asking the governor if after yesterday's meeting with the scientists, had his mind been changed in anyway?
"Well, look I'm very appreciative of these scientists. They came forward. They're like a lot of people. They're concerned about our future so they came forward with their ideas. I'm looking for solutions. We've done a lot of things. We know that Charlie Crist failed us on the environment. He didn't focus on these things. He'll talk about things all the time but he just won't get anything done. We've done a lot more things but we're going to continue to do more."
After yesterday's meeting, David Hastings, a professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College, told members of the media that "There was in fact no acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue," adding that Scott "did not reflect on the science, either."
So after the governor fielded a separate question on education, Fox 13's Patrick came back again to the issue, asking if he believed the science that the professors were espousing on Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm not an expert on this, so. I'm not qualified from a causation side. I'm a business guy. I'm a solutions person. So my focus is: we know there's issues out there - sea level rise - so let's focus on how we solve it. That's why we've put record funding in both for beach renourishment - increase it by 45 percent - also on flood mitigation, also on protecting our reefs, also protecting our springs. All these things. But there's going to be more to do. That's why I came up with out with a policy that was very specific about things I want to get done in my second term."
After Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schultz shouted "last question," the governor then responded to a query regarding his recent rejection of some judicial nominees. And then the press conference was over.
Anticipating a response to the climate discussion, the Charlie Crist media team provided reporters with a statement that the Democratic nominee made last month.
"I'm not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one," was the money quote from the former governor.