For Florida, the quality of our water and environmental surroundings are foundational to our prosperity as a state,’ declared new Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, when he took office at the start of the year. Having chosen environmental issues as a key component of his run in the November 2018 election, DeSantis, a Republican, immediately made action on environmental protection a top priority, including opposing offshore drilling and fracking. He also announced an additional $2.5billion over four years for Everglades protection and restoration.
‘DeSantis did campaign on a stronger environmental platform, and as you saw with the executive order he issued shortly after he’d been inaugurated, it looks like he intends to follow through on that,’ says David Zierden, state climatologist at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Florida State University. ‘Most Floridians are very encouraged by that. Almost all the provisions in this executive order are addressing current problems with water quality and water management. Everglades restoration, and trying to get the whole south Florida hydrology closer to its natural state, has been an ongoing problem.’
Despite this seemingly strong environmental agenda, DeSantis did not once use the words ‘climate change’, and neither did his executive order. ‘That went along with the previous governor, Rick Scott, who served two terms for eight years, and his culture of not mentioning the words “climate change”,’ explains Zierden. ‘It’s a politically charged subject. It was probably a good transition not to stress climate change and bring that kind of emotion into it.’
Yet the legislation did specifically include the creation of an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection, to provide funding and technical assistance to communities and habitats adversely affected by the rising seas that will inevitably threaten the Sunshine State in the coming years. ‘With this executive order,’ assures Zierden, ‘I think more Floridians are hopeful that climate science and climate change will be a consideration in all these environmental issues going forward.’
This was published in the March 2019 edition of Geographical magazine
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