Breaking precedent, Florida Governor Ron Desantis is hiring a Chief Resiliency Officer to combat the effects of Climate Change.
Former governor Rick Scott’s administration pushed aside climate change, going so far as to unofficially ban the use of the term. However in 2019 the tide is changing, public awareness for climate change is at an all-time high, and the state’s highest officials are now acting on those calls for making climate change a priority. Governor Ron Desantis is hiring a Chief Resiliency Officer or CRO. According to the job posting, the CRO “will prepare Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of climate change.” The position will report directly to the governor as they lead a workgroup of state agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Economic Development. Experts say a changing climate will not only raise environmental concerns, but economic and public health issues as well. Which raises the question what exactly is resiliency?
“Resilience you probably can find a lot of different sort of technical definitions out there. It’s essentially a communities ability to come back from disasters for example, but it’s also when we think not just in terms of how can community bounce back from flooding or bounce back from hurricanes, but it's also how can communities prepare for those things," said Moncrief.
Aliki Moncrief is the executive director of Florida Conservation Voters a non-partisan environmental group. She says people often think of resiliency as huge engineering projects.
“I think a lot of times folks tend to think about projects like Miami Beach where there’s multimillion dollar infrastructure projects to lift roads and put in pumping station. Sometimes folks think about resilience engineered solutions and maybe not enough about some of those natural solutions,” said Moncrief
Moncrief believes protecting natural environments provide an essential role in Florida’s climate change conversation.
“We think about protecting our mangroves and wetlands and making sure that those types of ecosystems that provide natural buffers to floods, to storms that we are actually protecting. Right now in Florida were still losing our wetlands were still losing our mangroves even though they play such a critical role in making our communities more resilient," said Moncrief
Moncrief would like to see the state partner with local resiliency officers who’ve been working toward a more resilient Florida for years.
“There are many local communities that already have resiliency officers and so I would expect the statewide chief resiliency officer not to reinvent the wheel, but to actually go to those local experts and learn from them in terms of what has already been working,” said Moncrief.
Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez has been advocating for more climate change policy in Florida. The Miami Democrat is no stranger to resiliency efforts with Miami being one of Florida’s cities most at risk from sea level rise.
“The leadership here in Florida on climate issue has not come from state government it has come for a very long time from local governments“
Rodriguez believes the time has come for the state to show leadership in resiliency efforts.
“I think that’s again part of the urgency of this particular moment. We need to capitalize on these winds of change and really show leadership from the state on climate change to support the effort frankly of local governments that have been doing this on their own for decades. “
Abena Ojetayo is the chief resiliency officer for the city of Tallahassee she says her job is to think about how potential disruptive events will impact the city.
“So for my role I’m in charge for a very comprehensive view of everything that the city does, and to partner with others to think through how any number of destructions might impact us,“ said Ojetayo
Ojetayo says taking a preventative approach will help the city adapt to changes in the future.
“Also a lot of the mitigation how we might prevent certain things and how we change business as usual integrating these ideas into our strategic so that we can really adapt to so many of the changes that any city or communities are beginning to face all around the world,” said Ojetayo
As Governor Ron Desantis continues to narrow his choice for the states chief resiliency officer, advocates hope the new position will follow the blueprint already laid out by the local governments in the state of Florida.