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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.
Photo provided by Susan Cerulean, wife to Jeff Chanton

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.
Photo provided by Susan Cerulean, wife to Jeff Chanton

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.
Robbie Gaffney
/
WFSU-FM