June 20, 2024


Climate change will be a lesser priority in Florida and largely disappear from state statutes under legislation signed on Wednesday by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, in a move which experts say ignores the reality of Florida’s climate threats.

The legislation, which comes after Florida had its hottest year on record since 1895, also bans power-generating wind turbines offshore or near the state’s lengthy coastline.

Florida is facing rising seas, extreme heat, flooding and increasingly severe storms.

The legislation takes effect on 1 July and also boosts expansion of natural gas, reduces regulations on gas pipelines in the state, and increases protections against bans on gas appliances such as stoves, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

“This purposeful act of cognitive dissonance is proof that the governor and state legislature are not acting in the best interests of Floridians, but rather to protect profits for the fossil fuel industry,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, executive director of the non-profit Cleo Institute, which advocates for climate change education and engagement.

DeSantis, who suspended his presidential campaign in January and later endorsed his bitter rival Donald Trump, called the bill a commonsense approach to energy policy. “We’re restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots,” DeSantis said in a post on the X social media platform.

Florida is already about 74% reliant on natural gas to power electric generation, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Opponents of the bill DeSantis signed say it removes the word “climate’ in nine different places and moves the state’s energy goals away from efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gases blamed for a warming planet.

Greg Knecht, director of the Nature Conservancy in Florida, told the Washington Post the new measure was “very much out of line with public opinion”, with polls showing that a majority of Floridians believe in climate change and want action. Knecht said: “We’re seeing flooding and we’re seeing property damage and we’re seeing hurricanes … [and] we’re turning around and saying, ‘Yeah, but climate change isn’t really real, and we don’t need to do anything about it.’”

The legislation also eliminates requirements that government agencies hold conferences and meetings in hotels certified by the state’s environmental agency as “green lodging” and that government agencies make fuel efficiency the top priority in buying new vehicles. It also ends a requirement that Florida state agencies look at a list of “climate-friendly” products before making purchases.

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In 2008, a bill to address climate change and promote renewable energy passed unanimously in both legislative chambers and was signed into law by then governor Charlie Crist, at the time a Republican. Former governor Rick Scott, now a Republican US senator, took steps after taking the governor’s office in 2011 to undo some of that measure and this latest bill takes it even further.

The measure signed by DeSantis would also launch a study of small nuclear reactor technology, expand the use of vehicles powered by hydrogen and enhance electric grid security, according to the governor’s office.

The Associated Press contributed reporting





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