As the legislative session continues in the Florida Capitol, advocates question if lawmakers are making climate change a priority.
In the 2019 legislative session the house and senate filed 3,400 bills. Those pertaining to climate change are in the overwhelming minority. Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) is one of the few lawmakers calling for more attention to the issue. The Miami Democrat is known for wearing rain boots to session everyday with #Actionclimatefl handwritten across them.
Rodriguez has filed five climate change related bills, the most of the 157 lawmakers. His bills address sea level rise, renewable energy standards, and disaster resilience. Only one of his bills passed it’s first committee.
Senate Bill 78 aims at mandating a sea level impact analysis before new state funded coastal construction projects. The Miami senator is frustratrated with the lack of urgency dealing with climate change in the capitol. The senator believes the lack of action is a mixture of lawmakers believing climate change legislation is will be expensive and not making it a priority.
"Many of my colleagues and leadership are just intimidated by the problem they think that there’s a gigantic price tag associated with starting to talk about climate change,” says Rodriguez.
Changes to the states infrastructure like converting to solar energy, building sea walls to combat sea level rise, and emission cutting can get pricey, but Rodriguez believes these investments will help Florida’s economic future in the long run.
“When we look at the reinsurance markets which ultimately drive how much we pay in insurance premiums what is and isn’t insurable. When we look at credit markets which determine how much we have to pay for things ultimately were being watched as a state, and the reality is if we don’t start showing that were getting in front of this; that we have a plan that we know what we’re doing, the economy is going to respond in kind and it won’t be friendly to us,” Rodriguez said.
Still, observers believe Florida is taking a step forward. Governor Ron DeSantis recently appointed University of Florida’s Thomas Frazer to the newly created position of chief science officer. Frazier says the focus of his position is water management, not climate change. However, the issue is being talked about on a national level. Former Governor and now US Senator Rick Scott now says climate change is real and "requires real solutions." Fellow Senator Marco Rubio has done the same along with North Florida Congressmen Matt Gaetz who recently rolled out his “Green Real Deal” as a republican climate change alternative to the democrats green new deal.
The most recent federally funded National Climate Assessment finds Florida’s natural systems are most at risk from severe weather and rising sea levels and will be completely transformed by the end of the century.