Newly elected Governor Ron DeSantis recently issued an executive order to address the many serious environmental problems that directly threaten Florida. In the state’s November election, the environment was a top issue for voters as red tide caused massive fish kills and turned away tourists who have long flocked to our beaches. Blue-green algae clogged lakes and waterways and Everglades restoration has stalled. DeSantis took a fresh, bold approach to confront Florida’s urgent environmental challenges – a welcome change to outgoing Governor Rick Scott – a climate change denier. DeSantis is creating the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help coastal communities prepare for sea level rise and storm water surge. He formed the Green Algae Task Force and will spend $2.5 billion in four years on long overdue Everglades restoration. He is directing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to insure that policy decisions are based on available science that overwhelmingly attributes global warming to human activity. What is missing from DeSantis’ new polices to address the serious threats to Florida’s environment is the root cause of it all: warming of the atmosphere and sea level rise caused by carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. As ocean water heats its volume expands and sea levels rise. As mountain glaciers and the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets continue to melt from global warming the oceans will rise.
During the campaign, DeSantis said climate change was a “global issue for national and international action, not a state issue.” After Donald Trump announced withdrawal of the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Climate Accords – the only nation in the world to do so- more than 400 cities, states and provinces in the U.S. and around the globe are pledging to fulfill the promises made at Paris to sharply reduce green house gas emissions. According to the 2018 U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive report by several federal agencies and headed by NASA, the seas have risen 8 inches since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution due to global warming. If we continue “business as usual” and don’t sharply reduce emissions by fossil fuels by 2030 and eliminate them entirely during this century, average global sea levels will rise by one to four feet, and as much as eight feet by 2100. After 2100 sea levels will continue to rise at the alarming rate of one foot per decade.
Of the 48 lower states, Florida is the most vulnerable to sea level rise, with a flat, low elevation and 1,100 miles of coastline. The Union of Concerned Scientists named Florida as the state most at risk from sea level rise and storm surge. By 2100 one-million Florida homes with a combined value of $351 billion will be at risk from coastal flooding. Sea level rise in Florida is predicted to be 1.8 feet by 2045 and 6.4 feet by 2100. This will cause a precipitous decline in coastal property values, prevent homes from being insured, cause bank failures as mortgages exceed property values and erode the tax base. Florida is the third most populous state after California and Texas and is third in the nation in electricity consumption. Most electricity in Florida is generated by fossil fuels including 61% from natural gas and 23% from coal. Natural gas is not clean. It’s also a dangerous a fossil fuel that emits about half the carbon into the atmosphere as coal. Nuclear power plants generate 12% of Florida’s electricity. Florida is ranked 47th nationally in the percentage of electricity generated from renewable energy at only 2 percent, mostly from biofuels, such as sugar cane waste. Florida must take the lead in ending our dependence on fossil fuels that are heating the planet and creating an unimaginable, hellish dystopian world for our children and grandchildren. Renewables such as solar photovoltaic electric generation, offshore and on shore wind farms and hydroelectric now account for almost 18 percent of electricity generation worldwide and is the fastest growing sector. By 2025 solar will be cheaper per kilowatt-hour than coal. Sunny Florida can become a leader in solar energy and offshore wind turbines can be built along our coast. Transportation is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in Florida. Like California and 12 other states, we can require improved vehicle fuel efficiency and help Florida convert to clean electric buses and trains. Revised building codes should require more energy efficiency in new residential and commercial construction.
During his six years in Congress, DeSantis got an abysmal 2 percent grade from the League of Conservation Voters. He now has an opportunity to be a leader in Florida and join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 23 governors, to help end our dependence on fossil fuels and show the way to a new, clean economy.