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Lawmakers Want Climate Change To Be Considered When Listing Animals As Endangered Or Threatened

Man walks along beach. Giant tree roots are to the right and left of him.
Photo provided by Susan Cerulean, wife to Jeff Chanton

Climate change could soon be a factor state agencies use when determining whether plants and animals are considered endangered or threatened. It also would ban agencies from considering economic factors when making those decisions.

Jeff Chanton sits inside his office at Florida State University's Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science building. He leans over his desk and clicks through a PowerPoint he made of Saint Vincent Island. It has pictures his wife Susan Cerulean took of the beach. One of the photographs is of a sea turtle nest. Chanton estimates it was taken around 2014. Erosion created a slope too steep for the mama turtle to climb. So she had to lay her eggs a couple feet from the water.

Chanton points to his computer screen, finger tracing the slope, "They lose their beach profile when the coastline erodes." 

beach with a cage on it.
Credit Photo provided by Susan Cerulean, wife to Jeff Chanton
This sea turtle nest had a cage put on top of it to prevent predators from getting the eggs. However, Jeff Chanton says the eggs will most likely not survive as they are too close to the water.

The eggs probably won't survive. However, it's not just erosion that's causing problems for sea turtles.

"There's a lot of forest that's being eroded," Chanton says, "Beaches are covered with logs or dead trees, and the turtles can't use that beach. So there we have a direct impact of climate change on this population." 
Climate change can express itself in temperature, sea-level change, increased storminess, and the strength of storms. Now, Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) is pushing SB 1360. It would allow state agencies to consider climate change when listing animals and plants as endangered or threatened. Another climate-related proposal by Rodriguez is SB 278. It would require the Department of Health to prepare a report to assess the threat of climate change on human health. However, SB 1360 is moving farther in the legislature than SB 278. 

Trees line the coastline.
Credit Photo provided by Susan Cerulean, wife to Jeff Chanton
Jeff Chanton says by looking at the tree in the foreground; you can see old roots jutting out midway up the trunk. He says this is where the surface of the beach used to be. Now, Chanton says it has fallen by at least six feet.

Another aspect of SB 1360 would ban the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission from considering the economic cost of protecting a species. It's a move that's won the support of Jenna Stevens with Environment Florida. 

"They could factor in things like loss of business revenue when making that decision now," Stevens says.
The house companion of Rodriguez's bill has not yet been.

man in button down shirt sits at desk and looks at computer.
Credit Robbie Gaffney / WFSU-FM
Jeff Chanton looks over pictures of Saint Vincent Island.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.