As climate change makes Florida boil, DeSantis might respond with the ‘delete’ button | Opinion

Emma Aagaard, a genCLEO organizer from Orlando, holds a sign that says, “the seas are rising and so are we.” Hundreds of young climate activists came to the Florida Capitol on Jan 24. to hold a press conference, rally and meet with elected officials. Britani Silvera
Emma Aagaard, a genCLEO organizer from Orlando, holds a sign that says, “the seas are rising and so are we.” Hundreds of young climate activists came to the Florida Capitol on Jan 24. to hold a press conference, rally and meet with elected officials. Britani Silvera

 

MARCH 30, 2024 6:00 AM

If there is a magic way to stop climate change from wreaking havoc on Florida, reverse sea-level rise and lower the kind of scalding summer temperatures Miami saw last year, lawmakers may have figured it out.

It’s called denial.

It hasn’t worked in past decades. A 2023 report by scientists, published in the journal Bioscience, warned that inaction to reduce carbon emissions is driving the planet toward “dangerous instability.” (The highest Earth temperature ever recorded happened last July).

Apparently, the Republican-dominated Legislature’s plan on how to address climate change in Florida before it’s too late is to hit the “delete” button — literally.

House Bill 1645 is reminiscent of the days when then-Gov. Rick Scott’s administration stopped state workers from using “climate change” in their official communication. The new legislation, approved in the 2024 session, removes most mentions of the term from state law, among other things.

Gov. Ron DeSantis must now decide whether to sign it into law, which he probably will, given that his office worked on a previous version of the legislation, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In some cases, the bill’s deletions seem innocuous, with the rest of sentences left almost intact. For example, the bill specifies that “climate change” vanishes from a section of a law that calls on the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to “advocate for energy and climate change issues.”

Poof. Out of sight, out of mind.

In other cases, the bill removes entire sections of the law.

One law currently reads: “The Legislature finds that the state’s energy security can be increased by lessening dependence on foreign oil; that the impacts of global climate change can be reduced through the reduction of greenhouse gas emission.”

It is deleted and replaced with: “The purpose of the state’s energy policy is to ensure an adequate, reliable, and cost-effective supply of energy for the state…”

Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, has said the bill’s intent is to keep energy cheap and reliable. Renner has also pointed out that the state has dedicated millions of dollars to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise. DeSantis also appointed a chief resilience officer to help prepare the state for rising sea levels.

These are welcome measures that vulnerable places like Miami and Miami Beach desperately need. But they only tackle the effects of climate change and do nothing to address causes such as carbon emissions. Nearly 75% of Florida’s electricity production comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

This legislation only steers Florida toward keeping its reliance on fossil fuels.

The bill also bans offshore windmills. Florida doesn’t attract that kind of renewable energy today because of its lower wind speeds, but that could change as technology evolves. Critics worry the ban could scare innovation away from the state in the future, the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported. HB 1645 also eliminates the requirement that state agencies, universities and local governments consider fuel efficiency when buying vehicles with state dollars. (Monster trucks for everyone!) It also takes away local governments’ authority to regulate where natural gas storage facilities can go.

All of this indicates that meaningful conversations on green energy don’t seem likely to happen at the Florida Capitol. The party that controls state government is led by Donald Trump, who has gone on bizarre tirades against windmills, once falsely claiming their noise causes cancer.

Even admitting climate change is real seems difficult for some legislators. Bill sponsor Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said, “I think there are many causes (to climate change) and I think our weather patterns are cyclic,” the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported. That’s despite the consensus among scientists that human activity is making the planet warmer.

Renner showed his skepticism in February, saying “if the climate’s changing..” and “if that’s going to have negative consequences,” the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reported. But there’s no “if.” The climate is changing and negative consequences are already here. Last summer, Miami set 10 daily temperature records and 27 daily heat index records, the Herald reported.

Deleting the words “climate change” might make it easier for lawmakers to escape accountability. But it makes it no easier for South Florida to deal with its very real impacts.

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