The staggering thing about Rick Scott has always been the shamelessness with which he conducts himself. Sure, he's transparently corrupt, but there are certainly other lawmakers who give him a run for his money in that regard. His policy pitches, likewise, are almost uniformly designed to protect the wealthy and hurt the poor and downtrodden, but that barely differentiates him from the vast majority of his Republican counterparts in 2019.
What makes Scott a uniquely awful man is not so much the impact he's had on the planet — still bad — but the brazenness with which he will lie to absolutely anyone, publicly, whenever he's challenged about anything. And this week, he showed once again he simply does not possess the part of a human brain capable of feeling shame: In a letter to a Miami environmentalist, Scott bragged that, while governor, he did a really good job of fighting climate change.
In a letter sent this week to sustainability professor Yoca Arditi-Rocha, the executive director of Miami's climate-change-fighting CLEO Institute, Scott staggeringly claimed he worked to fight sea-level rise and global warming, a claim that is less of a lie and more of an admission that reality has folded in upon itself and the concept of fact-checking is moot.
In a flabbergasting letter, Scott — or whoever drafts his letters for him — wrote:
Climate change is real and requires real solutions, and we can all agree that we need clean air, clean water, and must continue to make strategic investments in environmental protection. That is why, as Governor of Florida, I worked toward real solutions for the effects of climate change by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to address sea-level rise, including over $300 million for flood mitigation, coastal resiliency, beach re-nourishment, and coral-reef protection. As your Senator, I will continue to build on these efforts to ensure that future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer.
Arditi-Rocha did not respond to messages from New Times yesterday, but she posted the letter in at least one climate-change-related text thread with a fairly large following in Miami.
"I am just going to leave this here, DOT DOT DOT," she wrote sarcastically in one public WhatsApp thread.
So let's run that back: Rick Scott — a man who banned his own state employees from using the words "climate change"; a man so psychotically happy to pollute the environment that it was national news when his successor, Ron DeSantis, even discussed the concept of global warming; a man who supported President Donald Trump's decision to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement; a man who once signed a law letting residents challenge climate-change science in school textbooks — is now bragging he did a good job fighting climate change when he was governor. In fact, as Hurricane Irma approached Florida in 2017, the Washington Post published an entire story detailing how Scott's contempt for climate science was actually putting lives in danger as the Category 5 storm approached the state.
Scott's claims he supports clean water and clean air are also as laughable as any claim he fought climate change for even two seconds as governor. Frankly, at times it seemed like he was pro-pollution while he lived in the governor's mansion. He signed so many anti-water-quality laws that New Times in 2018 compiled an entire list of them: While governor, he cut $700 million from local water-management districts, began letting septic-tank owners pump human shit into waterways, opposed the adoption of stricter national Environmental Protection Agency water-quality standards, and, most notable, signed a law allowing corporations to dump more cancer-causing chemicals into the water supply.
In fact, his record on water alone was so piss-poor that, when red tide bloomed across huge sections of Florida's coastline in 2018 and nearly crippled the state's tourism industry, other Republicans began to blame Scott. By the end of 2018, he had been nicknamed "Red Tide Rick." Environmental protesters were literally chasing him out of his Senate campaign stops.
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Scott has trotted out some vaguely similar lines before, and he's been smacked down every time. In 2014, Scott tried to brag that his administration had "spent $350 million to deal with sea-level rise down in the Keys, or down in the Miami area," and had "spent hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with coral reefs" — claims that PolitiFact later ranked "mostly false."
That was the closest Scott seemingly ever got to even admitting sea-level rise was a real concept — until this month, when he appeared on Fox News wearing that silly "Navy" hat he dons during storms and, for what seems like the first time in his career, said, "The climate's changing, and we know our storms seem to be getting bigger."
But there is a chasm the size of a hurricane between Scott admitting climate change exists and Scott claiming he's done anything in his career other than welcome the pending climate apocalypse with open arms. He has done more than most American governors to ensure the Earth will continue cooking long after he's dead. He will tell you otherwise, frankly, because he thinks you're stupid.