DeSantis Signs Bill to Remove Climate Change References Amid Rising Sea Levels

Florida makes bold legislative changes to its energy policies.

by Nouman Rasool
DeSantis Signs Bill to Remove Climate Change References Amid Rising Sea Levels
© Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As Florida continues to be pummeled by a global tide through an ever-hotter sun, one of the biggest changes to state law in two decades is under way, courtesy of Gov. Ron DeSantis. On Wednesday, DeSantis signed a controversial bill that purges numerous mentions of the term "climate change" from Florida's laws.

His official X account broadcast this move, which represents a critical pivot in the state's environmental policy. The new legislation introduces sweeping changes to Florida’s energy strategies, notably excising parts of existing laws that previously emphasized reducing emissions harmful to the planet.

It starkly prioritizes natural gas and explicitly bans the development of offshore wind energy projects, despite no current plans for such initiatives off Florida's shores. The term 'climate' has been systematically removed from the state's legal documents eight times, specifically in contexts that previously directed state agencies towards adopting climate-conscious purchasing practices.

DeSantis Defends Bill

Governor DeSantis defended the bill with a strong message against what he termed as the "radical climate agenda" of the left, positioning Florida against the adoption of policies aimed at mitigating climate change.

This stance is encapsulated in his statement, asserting that the law shields Florida from "green zealots" and reinforces the state's energy independence. Legal and environmental experts express concern over these developments.

Emily Hammond, a law professor at George Washington University, criticized the state's direction, suggesting that it minimizes efforts to address climate change effectively. Michael Gerrard, from the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, echoed this sentiment, indicating that Florida's legislative changes are more extensive in rolling back climate initiatives than those of any other state.

All the while, at the same time, the legislature and executive office staff have been grappling with Florida's climate change reality. Last year was the hottest on record here, with South Florida posting heat index readings as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regionally, sea levels are around eight inches higher than in 1950, amplifying storm surge and flood risks. For all these problems, Florida is still investing in the field of resilience. Over $1.1 billion has been allocated towards enhancing community defenses against flooding and storms, a move supported by the appointment of the state’s first chief resilience officer in 2019.

Nevertheless, Florida has been hesitant to engage with federal climate initiatives, notably vetoing $29 million in federal energy grants and opting out of competing for $4.6 billion in climate resilience funds, although individual cities within the state have pursued these opportunities.