Sunset Island, Key West, Florida. Photo by Steve Hanley for CleanTechnica. All rights reserved

Ron DeSantis Signs Anti-Climate Change Law In Florida

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It is truly hard to understand how incredibly stupid extreme right wing politicians like Ron DeSantis get elected. On May 15, 2024, the current governor of Florida enthusiastically signed a piece of garbage legislation passed by the Florida legislature — which strives to bless every harebrained idea DeSantis dreams up — that allows the state government to ignore climate change when crafting energy policies.

According to the New York Times, the new law, which takes effect on July 1, will also prohibit the construction of offshore wind turbines in state waters and will repeal state grant programs that encourage energy conservation and renewable energy. It deletes requirements that state agencies use climate friendly products and purchase fuel efficient vehicles. It also prevents any Florida city or town from restricting the type of fuel that can be used in an appliance, a big wet kiss for the methane gas and propane industries.

Wearing a grimace fit for his idol, the disgraced former president, DeSantis intoned with great self importance that the new law “will keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks, and China out of our state. We’re restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots.” Radical green zealots, in case you want to decode what DeSantis said, include anyone who wants to preserve the Earth as a place where humans can continue to exist as ambient temperatures soar. That’s some radical woke thinking in his book and will not be tolerated!

Ron DeSantis, Man Of The People

People who are familiar with Florida politics will not be surprised in the least by Rabid Ron’s latest antics. This is Florida, after all, whose previous governor, Rick Scott, banned the use of the phrase “climate change” from any official discussions. Scott is now one of the more despicable members of the US Senate, where he spends most of his time fulminating about the sins, both real and imagined, of anyone who dares propose a sensible approach to lowering carbon emissions.

Florida is also the state where the investor-owned utility companies conspired to slip a constitutional amendment by the voters that would have stripped residents of the right to put solar panels on their roofs. Fortunately, the voters saw through the ruse and told the utilities to take their dastardly plan and shove it.

As the New York Times notes, Florida is one of the US states most vulnerable to the costly and deadly impacts of climate change, which is largely driven by the burning of oil, gas, and coal. Multiple scientific studies have shown that the increase of heat trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has contributed to sea level rise and more flooding in the state’s coastal cities.

DeSantis Laughs At Insurance Losses

Ron DeSantis
Public domain. Source: State of Florida

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 scorching marine life. Hurricane Idalia made landfall on August 30, 2023 near Keaton Beach and caused an estimated $3.6 billion in damages. In  2022, Hurricane Ian was blamed for more than 140 deaths and $109.5 billion in damages in Florida, becoming the costliest hurricane in state history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Those losses have created chaos in the Florida property insurance market. Faced with growing losses from floods and increasingly extreme weather, major insurers are pulling out of the state. Florida homeowners are scrambling to find coverage and, when they do, are paying some of the highest insurance premiums in the country. Thousands have enrolled in the state’s high-risk insurance pool of last resort, a fund that Mr. DeSantis has said is “insolvent.” Instability in the insurance market threatens Florida real estate and, by extension, the state’s economy, experts say.

DeSantis could care less. With the snarling insouciance typical of extreme right wing lunatics, the governor has chosen to add fuel to the fire rather than make any effort to govern in a responsible fashion. During his abortive presidential campaign for president, he promised gleefully that “on Day 1, I’m taking all the Biden regulations, the Green New Deal, ripping it up and throwing it in the trash can where it belongs.”

No Renewable Energy For You!

One of the places in Florida that is most exposed to rising sea levels is Key West, the southernmost place in the continental US. And yet, visitors to that splendid little city will see nary a solar panel in sight anywhere. Mustn’t let anything spoil the view, even if the surrounding sea threatens to consume the community in its entirety.

Last year, DeSantis refused to allow his administration to accept $346 million in federal funds to help Florida residents make their homes more energy efficient — despite a request from the State legislature to accept the money. Not going to have anything to do with federal money on his watch, especially if it might help low income Floridians. That’s what happens when you elect ideologues to important positions instead of people who actually want to help their constituents to thrive. We all know a lot of that money would wind up helping a bunch of undeserving black and brown people who spend their whole lives looking for handouts from their white-skinned betters. Fear not. Ridiculous Ron wants no part of such woke nonsense. [Note: if English is your second language, the above is a satirical view of how people like Ron DeSantis think. It is not intended to be taken literally by anyone with more than a fourth grade education.]

In 2022, about 74% of Florida’s electricity was generated by burning methane.. Nuclear power supplied about 12%, and solar and coal provided the remainder, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Florida currently has no offshore wind industry.

Critics Respond To Ron DeSantis

Brooke Alexander-Goss, the clean energy organizing manager for the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, said that DeSantis had “failed” his constituents by signing the bill. “Allowing this bill to become law jeopardizes the health and safety of all Floridians, further proving that his top priority is to appease large corporations and fossil fuel companies,” she said. “We will pay more at the pump and for our insurance premiums, and we will certainly see increases in climate related disasters and deaths.”

Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, told the New York Times the deletion of climate change as a priority is largely a symbolic action that does not prohibit lawmakers from considering climate change in state energy policy. “If they had a differently minded governor in the future, the governor could still say, ‘I want to consider climate change,’” Mr. Gerrard said. “It’s not banned.”

But, he said, the symbolism could still have a political effect. “It’s a strong signaling device that could have an effect on private sector actions, such as investment in clean energy efforts in the state and research in the universities. Students and professors who care deeply about climate change are not going to be drawn to Florida, and climate research dollars could flow elsewhere.”

Yoca Arditi-Rocha, executive director at the CLEO Institute, told The Hill, “It is extremely alarming that leaders in Tallahassee have eliminated statutory language that recognized the dangers of climate pollution, the importance of energy efficiency, and realities of increasing extreme weather events due to a warming planet. Floridians are on the front lines of rising sea levels, rising extreme heat, rising property insurance prices, more frequent flooding, and more severe storms. This purposeful act of cognitive dissonance is proof that the governor and the state legislature are not acting in the best interests of Floridians, but rather to protect profits for the fossil fuel industry.”

The Takeaway

How do bozos like DeSantis get elected? Because they appeal to the lowest common denominator in the electorate. They fan the flames of fear and loathing for others in order to solidify their grip on power. What is happening is a harbinger of what will happen in more states and national governments if people turn to authoritarian leaders to protect them from things that frighten them. Who wouldn’t rather die than cook on an electric stove? Who wouldn’t rather watch their children suffer from extreme heat than drive an electric car? Who wouldn’t prefer to see all the glaciers and ice caps melt rather than be forced to use electricity that comes from renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines?

In our mania for protecting “our way of life,” we are guaranteeing that millions, perhaps billions, of our fellow human beings must die so we do not have to alter our comfortable lifestyle one iota. That is the inevitable consequence of living a life of privilege. There is a saying that for those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like losing. And yet in the end, megalomaniacs like Ron DeSantis will make losers of us all. Please vote wisely. The planet you save may be your own.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

Steve Hanley has 5595 posts and counting. See all posts by Steve Hanley