By Laura Barron-Lopez - 05/15/14 04:25 PM EDT
Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDem senator: Clinton may command 'majority of the Republican caucus' Banking association backs financial transparency bill Shift in care could reverse the opioid epidemic MORE (D-R.I.) took fellow Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioPence tweets to congratulate ‘good friend’ McCain Canova refuses to congratulate Wasserman Schultz on victory The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE (R-Fla.) to task Thursday for his recent comments on climate change.
“The reality of our changing climate is beyond debate in Florida, just as it is in Rhode Island,” Whitehouse wrote to Rubio, a likely 2016 presidential hopeful.
“With all I heard in Florida, I was surprised to hear your recent comments ... To deny the cause of climate change and assert that we shouldn’t try to do anything about it is to condemn our children and grandchildren to a much different world than the one you and I have come to love," Whitehouse added.
A few days later Rubio added: "The issue is not whether the climate is changing — as always, it is changing. The issue is whether there are legislative proposals before us that can do anything about it."
The comments set off a wave of criticism from green groups, and now Whitehouse, a staunch advocate of policies aimed at mitigating climate change, is challenging Rubio to bring his perspective to the Senate floor for a debate.
Whitehouse recently traveled to Florida during a Senate recess to see firsthand coastal erosion and talk with scientists about the impacts of global warming.
He also railed against Rubio's comment that the U.S. shouldn't have to lead on climate-change mitigation when countries such as China are more heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
"To say that we should wait for China to take action before we address this problem stands at odds with your own articulately stated position on foreign policy," Whitehouse wrote, adding that the U.S. economy will continue to be harmed by climate change if no steps are taken.