May 30, 2024

South Florida suffered through brutal heat and humidity this week as the heat index (the “feels like” temperature) in Key West reached 115 degrees F – matching the record for any time of the year. With rising temperatures, flooding on sunny days and toxic algae blooms, Floridians realize something is amiss. Ninety percent of the residents accept that climate change is happening, according to s new recording from Florida Atlantic University, and two-thirds want their state government to do more to address the problem.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis, the former Republican presidential hopeful, is moving in the opposite direction. On Wednesday, as heat records fell, he signed legislation delete most references to the words “climate change”. of the state’s laws and the removal of emission reductions as a priority for energy policy. It also prohibits the construction of offshore wind turbines on Florida’s coast, weakens regulations on natural gas pipelines, and prevents cities from banning appliances such as gas stoves.

Along with two other bills DeSantis signed Wednesday, the new law would “keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks and China out of our state,” he said. written on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “We are restoring common sense to our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots.”

The phrase “climate change” has been swept up in America’s culture wars, viewed as a “Democratic” issue from which Republicans like DeSantis want to distance themselves. “I think a lot of it is messaging and rhetoric,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, the executive director of the CLEO Institute, a climate education and advocacy nonprofit in Florida. But at the same time, the law will have a real impact, she said. “This is a very good opportunity for the gas industry to push out more infrastructure and promote more expansion.”

The measure, which comes into effect on July 1, will remove eight references to climate change of the state’s laws, leaving seven intact. It swaps language in a 2008 policy that prioritized reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a goal for the state’s energy policy with the new goal of making energy “cost-effective” and “reliable.” Arditi-Rocha questioned whether the new law would match that goal, arguing that investing in renewables would better diversify the state’s energy mix. The Sunshine State already relies heavily on gas, which provides 74 percent of Florida’s electricity. Solar power provides about 5 percent.

The law also removes a requirement that government agencies buy fuel-efficient vehicles and strips a clause that gave state officials the authority to set renewable energy targets for Florida.

Eliminating climate-related language could send a signal to green entrepreneurs that their industries are not welcome in Florida. “I just think it puts us at a disadvantage to other states,” Greg Knecht, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida. told Grist in March. Even though Florida is not particularly windy, with no wind farms in operationis it possible that as offshore wind technology improves, it might one day make sense if the state hadn’t banned it this week.

DeSantis is well aware of the consequences of climate change. In recent years, he has poured money into adapting to sea-level rise, signing legislation that grants $640 million for resilience projects to respond to coastal threats and $28 million for flood vulnerability studies for each country. But some threats get a different treatment. Last month, DeSantis signed legislation barring cities from making local rules to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat.

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