This Earth Day afternoon, President Barack Obama will visit Everglades National Park to use the iconic wetland as a symbol of the climate threat Clinton first flagged 15 years ago. The Everglades is about as flat and low-lying as a landscape can get; the park has a sign identifying “Rock Reef Pass: Elevation 3 Feet.” The freshwater ecosystem is also surrounded by saltwater seas and estuaries, which scientists believe are rising six to 10 times faster than the average over the past 3,000 years. Obama will argue that climate change threatens not only this unique natural jewel but also South Florida’s lucrative ecotourism industry, as well as underground aquifers that provide drinking water for 7 million people.
Making the Everglades Exhibit A in his case for climate action has obvious political appeal for Obama. He’ll get to frame his controversial carbon rules as the salvation of a widely beloved wetland, while drawing an implicit contrast with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and other Republican presidential candidates who hope to roll them back.
But dragging the Everglades into the partisan battlefield of climate politics could be less advantageous for the Everglades.