Miami’s mayor on Hurricane Irma: ‘If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is’

Miami’s Republican mayor called on President Donald Trump and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Friday to acknowledge that climate change is playing a role in the extreme weather that has slammed his city and the continental U.S. this summer.

Speaking from Miami’s Emergency Operations Center in downtown, where the city’s senior public safety and political authorities will ride out Category 4 Hurricane Irma this weekend, Mayor Tomás Regalado told the Miami Herald that he believes warming and rising seas are threatening South Florida’s immediate and long-term future.

“This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” said Regalado, who flew back to Miami from Argentina Friday morning to be in the city during the storm. “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

Hurricane Irma is expected to begin lashing Regalado’s city with hurricane-force winds this weekend. The storm, which is trailed in the Atlantic Ocean by Category 4 storm Jose, has forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate from Coconut Grove and areas around downtown, Brickell, Little Haiti and the Miami River. A third hurricane, Katia, is located off Mexico’s coast.

Research, meanwhile, suggests a warming climate is increasing the intensity of hurricanes.

This is the time to talk about climate change.

Mayor Tomás Regalado

But Trump once called climate change a “hoax.” And on Thursday, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told CNN that the time to discuss the cause and effect of this summer’s intense hurricanes, including Irma, “it’s not now.”

Regalado, however, said hurricanes like Irma and Harvey, which devastated the Houston area of Texas last month, ought to spark conversations about climate change — not dampen them over concerns about political sensitivities.

“I don’t want to be political but the fact of the matter is that this is a lesson that we need protection from nature,” he said.

To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, to CNN

A Republican serving out the final two months of his time as Miami’s chief executive, Regalado is currently campaigning for a $400 million general obligation bond, nearly half of which would go toward storm drain and pump improvements. The projects are part of a roughly $1 billion, long-term plan to make Miami more sustainable in the face of rising seas.

He has said publicly that he hopes the federal government will help the city pay for parts of the initiative.

“You know, for those who say we don’t believe in the bond issue because we can do that later, no, it’s happening now. We got [Hurricane] Jose in the back and we got Katia. We got stuff going on,” he said. “So, I think this is a lesson for the people to say you know what? We have to be prepared.”