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Regional climate change coalition has one holdout: Pasco County

When officials from 24 cities and counties met in St. Petersburg on Oct. 8 to form a regional coalition dedicated to addressingclimate change and sea level rise, there was one Tampa Bay county government missing.

Pasco did not join the pact with Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando, Citrus and Manatee counties — but not because the Pasco County Commission voted against it.

Commissioner Jack Mariano is Pasco’s representative on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the organization that began forming the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition earlier this year. But Mariano, a Republican, declined to even pass along the coalition resolution to his commission colleagues for discussion because he said he does not believe in two words central to the document: climate change.

Despite globally embraced evidence that Earth is warming, and that the primary cause is human activity, Mariano said he rejects that science.

“If the earth is getting warmer, it’s a natural cycle of it,” Mariano said, contradicting findings of top federal scientists in the National Climate Assessment report that said natural cycles cannot account for the extent of warming during the past century and that human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, is to blame. “I think the overwhelming change of the climate, humans have a minuscule amount of effect.”

Any commissioner can bring a topic up for discussion at a public meeting. But Pasco County spokeswoman Tambrey Laine said staff recommended only Mariano present the Resiliency Coalition resolution, which he has had since June, because he serves on the Regional Planning Council and has the background information.

Laine said county staff is working with the Regional Planning Council on an alternate resolution for Pasco to consider that does not include the words "climate change" but still represents the Coalition's mission of resiliency.