Florida Republicans Challenge Climate-Denying EPA Chief

Scientists, environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers pounced Thursday after Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt refuted his own agency by insisting carbon dioxide emissions don’t cause global warming.

On Friday, the most senior Republican congresswoman in the House of Representatives joined the chorus of critics.

“These comments by the EPA administrator casting doubt on the causes and impacts of climate change are disconcerting and troubling,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a statement. “I’m committed to helping ensure South Florida’s environment remains pristine and we continue to combat sea level rise in order to protect our community.”

She wasn’t alone. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) slammed Pruitt’s comment hours after it was broadcast Thursday on CNBC.

Spokespeople for Curbelo and Ros-Lehtinen declined The Huffington Post’s requests for an interview Friday afternoon.

The pair drew attention during the presidential election last year when they publicly broke with the Republican Party line on climate change and formed the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the House. At the time, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were both gunning for the Republican presidential nomination. Rubio had previously said he didn’t believe “human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate,” while Bush said climate change “wouldn’t be on my first page of things that wake me up in the middle of the night.”

Last summer, Ros-Lehtinen filed legislation aimed at restoring coral reefs, in hopes that the underwater ecosystems would offer a natural bulwark against higher storm surges from sea-level rise. She also supported a bill requiring overseas companies to pay the cleanup costs for oil spills in nearby foreign waters. Curbelo, meanwhile, appeared in a National Geographic TV show on climate change, demonstrating what Politico described as his “role as a maverick Republican.”

South Florida has already been ravaged by the effects of climate change. Temperatures in the region have increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, and are expected to soar by up to 8 degrees by the end of the century, according to the EPA. Hurricanes and heavy downpours have become more frequent and violent since the 1980s. Over the past 25 years, sea levels have risen by as much as 3 inches, a report from Miami-Dade County stated in December. Now regularly inundated, the city of Miami Beach alone plans to spend $500 million on flooding prevention.