Comparing Rubio's November comments on the earth's age with last night's on climate offers a couple interesting insights, in addition to his abrupt acquisition of scientific acumen. First, climate change appears even more of a third rail for conservative politicians than evolution and creationism. Rubio was able to split the difference on evolution, at once bowing to the science, nodding to his own faith, and offering a sop to religious conservatives who object to the teaching of evolution (he later explained that parents should be able to teach their children what they want). With global warming, there's no such split: Rubio rejects both environmental policy solutions and the scientific consensus. Case closed.
Assuming that climate politics don't shift drastically in the next four years -- though stranger things have happened -- and the presidential field remains roughly similar, this sets up an interesting dynamic for 2016. In a Republican primary, Rubio might find himself squaring up against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose state sustained an estimated $29.4 billion in damage during Hurricane Sandy. Christie has said that man-made climate change is real. If Rubio won the GOP primary, he might find himself running against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, which saw $42 billion in damage from the same storm.