Central Florida legislators and democratic activists called for stronger leadership in tackling the climate crisis on Wednesday as the state and the world braced for more challenges.
Central Florida state representatives Anna Eskamani, Carlos Guillermo Smith and Joy Goff-Marcil called on Governor Ron DeSantis to take a stronger stance in mitigating human-made damage to the climate during a virtual press conference hosted by Eskamani. He and his advocates are pushing the governor to enact policies that will not only solve the crisis, but strengthen Florida.
“We are gathered here today with fellow lawmakers and community advocates to reinforce the need for Florida to declare a climate emergency,” Eskamani said. His words came on the first day of Atlantic hurricane season, which already has two systems monitored by the National Hurricane Center for potential threats.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its preseason forecast predicting a 65% chance of an above-average season — 7th above-average prediction in a row. The last two years looked at the historical number of storm production with 2020 recording 30 named storms in a single season, the most recorded, and 2021 having the third highest on record with 21 named storms.
In April, more than 30 lawmakers, including Eskamani, Smith and Goff-Marcil, signed a letter on Earth Day urging DeSantis to declare a “climate emergency.”
The letter asks the governor to establish a task force consisting of environmental justice experts, scientists and local community leaders to inform his decision-making to address future climate events. Additionally, lawmakers called for a system that would identify and measure Florida’s greenhouse gas emissions by source, industry and region.
“Such data can help our curve of greenhouse gas emissions,” Eskamani said.
Prior to the letter, DeSantis had not invested in climate change mitigation efforts which he considered a “left-wing thing,” said Aliki Moncrief, of the advocacy group Florida Conservation Voters. Moncrief further criticized the legislative leadership by accusing it of actively preventing climate action.
Last week, climate change was raised by several legislators during a special session on property insurance, labeling it as the cause of rising costs, but “deemed unnecessary to be addressed and basically ignored,” according to Eskamani.
“While MPs here today are trying to solve this problem, the governor and leadership in the Legislature have not only failed to act and have actually hindered progress,” Moncrief said.
Moncrief pointed to many proposed bills rejected by the Legislature including those that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, add solar panels to emergency shelters, and add protection for outdoor workers from excessively hot days.
“It’s not a matter of whether we can pass this bill, it will be legislative leaders even giving them time,” Moncrief said. “Climate change is not partisan, even if (DeSantis) wants to, so he can continue to ignore it.”
As meteorologists and disaster preparedness managers anticipate a busy hurricane year, climate change experts say getting used to it.
“The climate crisis is here. It won’t come in the future. It’s already started and we’re experiencing it all over the planet,” said Bruce Strouble, Tallahassee sustainability expert, during a virtual conference. “We don’t want to use the term immutable, but we will see that it will thin the margins as humans adapt to what we cause.”
Strouble emphasized a long list of difficulties facing Florida in the future including more frequent hurricanes and hurricanes, droughts, sea level rise in Miami-Dade County, food shortages, algae blooms and animal extinctions.
The virtual panel also shows that research has found Florida’s most vulnerable populations produce the least amount of emissions but are feeling the first effects of the climate crisis such as increased flooding threats, Strouble said.
“Climate change has and will cause disproportionate harm to the lower class and the marginalized,” he said. “This will cause problems for black Americans who have suffered tremendous injustice in the state of Florida historically. We don’t want to complicate that any further.”
According to NASA, about 97% of published climate scientists actively agree that climate trends over the last century are most likely caused by human activity. A separate study conducted by the 200-member International Panel on Climate Change organized by the United Nations agreed that the effects of climate change exist and affect nearly 3 billion people on the planet.
Scientists have observed an average 1 degree Celsius increase in global warming each year. The report also suggests that the average should increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2035 and 2050, which would lead to more significant climate impacts. The average is expected to rise by 2 degrees Celsius over the next 60 to 70 years.
“To save our children and grandchildren, we must push for net zero emissions by 2050.” problem word. “Anything lacking, I think is akin to ecological terrorism and furthering racism and environmental injustice, placing a burden on our children and grandchildren.”
Democratic lawmakers also spoke of the economic benefits Florida would gain if the state implemented a climate change prevention strategy. Over the past two hurricane seasons, the United States has suffered $145 billion in damage, according to NOAA. More than half of the damage — $75 billion — was caused by one hurricane: 2021’s Hurricane Ida, which brought massive flooding as a post-tropical hurricane in the northeastern US
Lawmakers not only pushed Wednesday for strategies to help prevent future disasters, but also pushed for policies that Florida could leverage.
“Not only do we encourage the state to take bold action to combat global and local threats to the health and well-being of our economic security, but we also fight this issue because we know it is also a major job creator for Florida families. and can help reduce costs too,” said Rep. Smith. “That will create huge job opportunities.”
Smith explained that Florida has great potential to leverage federal funding from President Joe Biden’s Rebuild Better Approach, which will invest in clean energy jobs, such as solar panel installation jobs — jobs that pay well, Smith said. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average solar photovoltaic installer earning about $44,000 per year. The profession as a whole is projected to grow by 50% in the next seven years, according to BLS statistics. This is an area of job growth that Florida must be a leader in, said Smith.
“It is past time for Florida to finally tap into federal funding and step up as an international leader in energy independence, resilience, stability and job creation,” he said. “We are Sunshine State, do I have to repeat it?”