Florida Republicans are fighting rising sea levels — but not the climate change that's causing it: report

Florida Republicans are fighting rising sea levels — but not the climate change that's causing it: report

As climate change continues to accelerate, Florida will be imperiled in a variety of ways — from rising sea levels to severe flooding to hurricanes increasing in terms of both frequency and severity. But much to the dismay of climate change activists and environmentalists, the Sunshine State is controlled by Republicans who say climate change doesn't exists. Zoya Teirstein, in an article published by Grist on March 9, takes a look at Florida Republicans who are addressing rising sea levels but not acknowledging climate change as their cause.

"The flattest state in the union is uniquely threatened by sea-level rise: the lower third of the state could be submerged in just a few generations," Teirstein explains. "The ocean is threatening to turn paved paradise back into a sponge. After years of dragging their feet, Republican lawmakers in the state are trying to prevent that from happening — but they still aren't talking about the most necessary solutions to the problem."

Florida presently has a far-right Republican governor, Ron DeSantis — who enjoyed a narrow victory over Democrat and former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in 2018 — and Republicans have a majority in Florida's state legislature. Both of Florida's U.S. senators are Republicans: Marco Rubio and former Gov. Rick Scott.

Republicans in Florida's state legislature, Teirstein notes, are expected to vote in favor of a "suite of measures" that will "direct $100 million per year over the next two years toward protections against sea-level rise and flooding." Teirstein also points out that in 2020, DeSantis signed into law Florida Senate Bill 178 — which forbids tax dollars to be spent in coastal zones that "have not taken rising sea levels into account."

But according to Yoca Arditi-Rocha — executive director of the CLEO Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit — such measures aren't going far enough. Arditi-Rocha views SB 178 as a good law but laments that it doesn't address the root cause of rising sea levels: climate change.

Arditi-Rocha told Grist, "We're at the frontlines of the climate crisis, and flooding is not the only issue we're experiencing." Similarly, Preston Robertson, president and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation, told Grist, "We need to try to stem rising seas at the source, which is to decrease these power sources that create greenhouse gases — and that's not in any of these bills."

Robertson warns that in the future, countless properties in Florida will be imperiled when climate change goes from bad to worse.

"There are trillions of dollars in property just in Miami-Dade alone," Robertson observes. "It's almost impossible to get your mind around the fact that if the seas keep rising, those residences and commercial structures are going to become uninhabitable."

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