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DeSantis signs law removing climate change from Florida politics

Florida’s state government will no longer be required to consider climate change when developing its energy policy under a law signed Wednesday by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The new law, passed by the Florida Legislature in March and effective July 1, will also ban the construction of offshore wind turbines in state waters and repeal state subsidy programs that encourage water savings. energy and renewable energies.

The legislation also removes requirements that state agencies use climate-friendly products and purchase fuel-efficient vehicles. And it prevents any municipality from restricting the type of fuel that can be used in an appliance, such as a gas stove.

The legislation, along with two other bills Mr. DeSantis signed on Wednesday, will “keep wind turbines off our beaches, gas in our reservoirs, and China out of our state.” the governor wrote on social media platform X. “We are restoring common sense to our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of radical green fanatics. »

Florida is one of the states most vulnerable to the costly and deadly impacts of climate change, which are largely driven by the burning of oil, gas and coal. Numerous scientific studies have shown that increases in heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have contributed to rising sea levels and more flooding in the state’s coastal cities.

Last year was the hottest in Florida since 1895, and the waters off its coast heated to 90 degrees during the summer, bleaching corals and burning marine life. Hurricane Idalia made landfall on August 30 near Keaton Beach and caused an estimated $3.6 billion in damage. The previous year, Hurricane Ian was blamed for more than 140 deaths and $109.5 billion in damage in Florida, becoming the costliest hurricane in state history, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Faced with growing losses from flooding and increasingly extreme weather, major insurers are pulling out of the state. Florida homeowners struggle to find coverage and, when they do, pay some of the highest insurance premiums in the country. Thousands of people have signed up for the state’s high-risk insurance pool of last resort, a fund Mr. DeSantis called “insolvent.” Experts say instability in the insurance market threatens Florida real estate and, by extension, the state’s economy.

The governor has supported programs aimed at making communities more resilient to extreme weather.

But Mr. DeSantis, who suspended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in January, attacked climate policies as part of a push in the broader partisan culture wars. During a presidential debate last fall, Mr. DeSantis promised that “from day one, I will take all the Biden regulations, the Green New Deal, tear them up and throw them in the trash where they belong.” .

Mr. Biden’s climate regulations are not the Green New Deal, a sweeping legislative package promoted by progressives that has not passed Congress.

Last year, Mr. DeSantis rejected $346 million in federal funds available to help Florida residents make their homes more energy efficient, despite a request from the state Legislature that Florida accept the money.

Florida is largely powered by natural gas, which provided about 74% of the state’s total net electricity generation in 2022. Nuclear power provided about 12%, and solar and coal provided the rest, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Florida does not have an offshore wind industry.

Brooke Alexander-Goss, clean energy organizing manager for the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, said Mr. DeSantis had “let down” his constituents by signing the bill.

“Allowing this bill to become law endangers the health and safety of all Floridians, proving once again that its top priority is appeasing big business and fossil fuel companies,” he said. she declared. “We will pay more at the pump and for our insurance premiums, and we will certainly see an increase in climate-related disasters and deaths. »

Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, said removing climate change as a priority is largely a symbolic action that does not prohibit lawmakers from considering the change. climate in state energy policy.

“If they had a governor with different views in the future, he could always say, ‘I want to take climate change into account,’” Mr. Gerrard said. “It is not forbidden.”

But, he says, the symbolism could still have a political effect. “This is a strong signal that could have an effect on private sector actions, such as investments in clean energy efforts in the state and research at universities,” Mr. Gerrard said . “Students and faculty who are deeply concerned about climate change will not be attracted to Florida, and funds for climate research may flow elsewhere. »

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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