Robert Kennedy Jr. speaks at Crist’s Climate Change Conference in Miami

07/12/07 Seán Kinane
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Governor Charlie Crist’s two-day Climate Change Conference began today in Miami. A spokesperson for the British Consulate said that Crist will sign an agreement tomorrow with the English government to battle global warming together. Today’s keynote address was by environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. WMNF’s Sean Kinane reports that according to Kennedy, the threat of rising sea levels, which would dramatically alter the geography of Florida, is not alarmism and should be taken seriously.

“What happens if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet does collapse and the Greenland Ice Sheet which more and more scientists say is potentially imminent, where 12 feet water, raise sea levels twelve feet and put a third of Florida under water. This is not a joke. This is a serious issue. This is not alarmism. It is seriously something that is virtually certain to happen.”

Kennedy challenged the dogma that fossil fuels are an economically inexpensive way to get energy and that renewables are more expensive. He said that if the system of corporate welfare ended, where the government gives handouts to the fossil fuel industry, and if the free market were truly at work, oil would be one of the most expensive sources of energy.

“Seventeen billion dollars a year in direct federal subsidies to the oil industry. Almost a trillion dollars, 834 billion dollars a year in indirect subsidies like 100 million dollars we spend every year protecting the oil lines in MidEast, and escorting ships back and forth, tankers back and forth. Plus, and that doesn’t even count the 130 million [sic – billion] we’re now spending in Iraq, which should be billed to that account. … If we were paying the true cost of oil at the pump we would be paying about 13 dollars per gallon. And of course they couldn’t compete against that, against biofuels and all these other alternatives that are now available.”

One example of a cheap alternative energy that Kennedy cited is thin film solar. He said that green technologies make good business sense.

“A thin film solar that looks like seran wrap. … Cheaper than coal …”

Kennedy railed against the revolving door where lobbyists for the most polluting industries have taken key regulatory and environmental positions within the Bush administration and then get re-hired by those industries after key laws got passed. He also passionately spoke out against strip-mining for coal, a process where entire mountaintops are removed and entire valleys are filled in, destroying the environment and the local economy.

“… I was 14 they’re not just destroying the environment – break the unions 140K unionized mine workers in WV, today fewer than 11K. taking same amount as 68. None unionized. …”

Earlier in the day there was a panel discussion on Transportation and Land Use Efficiency. Douglas Foy is the President of DIF Enterprises and a Policy Advisor for the Pew Center on the States. He pointed out that the best communities were the ones that had great transit systems and therefore the fewest VMT or vehicle miles traveled. New York City tops the list. But the second best transit system in the country, according to Foy, is Walt Disney World.

“ … That’s not a joke. Built around the premise of pedestrian friendliness. You can’t drive. Designed to be traditional American town. … Incredibly successful …Why aren’t we building communities like that anymore? …”

Because of our urban sprawl, Florida is tied with southern California for the most auto dependent region in the country, according to Nick Bollman who is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University.

“ … FL about 30 annual trips on transit. Tampa about 10. NYC about 165 per capita. We lag far behind. Tied with SCal. ..”

The Climate Change Summit concludes tomorrow. You can watch the live video stream at myfloridaclimate dot com . For WMNF News, I’m Sean Kinane

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