Delivering the official Republican response to the State of the Union, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio dismissed climate change as a challenge beyond government "control," and disappointed environmental activists in the Senator's home state hopeful that Rubio would acknowledge the issue given top billing in President Barack Obama's speech.
"When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can't control the weather — [President Obama] accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air," said Rubio, who gave the live televised address from the House Speaker's Conference Room.
Rubio's speech also made reference to clean energy sources such as solar and wind energy, but added, "God also blessed America with abundant coal, oil, and natural gas."
The Florida Senator also dismissed climate change as a challenge too large for government in an interview with BuzzFeed earlier this month. "Anything that we would do on [climate change] would have a real impact on our economy, but probably, if it was only us [the U.S.] doing it, a very negligible impact on the environment," Rubio said.
Climate change advocates in Florida were hopeful that Rubio's address would not only name climate change as one of the nation's top challenges, but acknowledge it as a man-made phenomenon. Members of Florida's Sierra Club delivered a letter Tuesday to the Senator's home office in Miami, urging Rubio to address the "thousands of Floridians who are being forced to protect their homes, businesses and livelihoods from the effects of climate change," read the letter.
"The economy of Florida is so tied to what happens to climate change that we're talking about the loss of our coastal areas," said Jonathan Ullman of the Sierra Club's South Florida chapter.
Ullman, who spoke to BuzzFeed by phone before Rubio's address, said, "We hope in his speech he acknowledges it, and acknowledges that it's man-made. I'm sure he's written the speech already, but he can stop the presses — there's still time."
Ullman said that Rubio's South Florida regional director, Alyn Cruz Higgins, promised the Sierra Club's letter would get passed along to Washington.
Ruby Cramer is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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