May 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

DeSantis signs bill wiping climate change references from Florida law

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference in Sanford, Florida where he signed legislation to increase penalties on individuals who expose law enforcement officers to fentanyl, and to bring awareness to life-saving measures for someone experiencing an opioid overdose.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Sanford, Florida, last month. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared on X Wednesday that a bill he signed that removes climate change as a priority in state energy policy would restore "sanity" and reject "the agenda of the radical green zealots."

Why it matters: The bill that would also ban offshore wind turbines and bolster natural gas expansion after taking effect on July 1 comes as climate change's effects are already impacting Florida — notably a dangerous heat wave threatening the state's south this week that's already broken temperature records.

  • The heat index in Key West hit a record 115°F on Wednesday and the National Weather Service warned South Florida could expect well-above average temperatures with "hazardous" heat index values this week.
  • Florida is also facing climate change-related threats from rising sea levels and ocean temperatures, hurricanes and other severe storms, extreme precipitation, flooding and toxic algae blooms.

The big picture: The legislation that deletes most mentions of climate change in state law reverses much of the policies and legislation that were introduced during the administration of the then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, a Democrat DeSantis defeated in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

  • Now, the focus is on "an adequate, reliable and cost-effective supply of energy for the state in a manner that promotes the health and welfare of the public and economic growth," per a legislative analysis.
  • Critics say DeSantis is using climate change as part of a broader culture wars drive and environmental group Sierra Club's Florida chapter issued a statement saying the law "jeopardizes" the health and safety of all Floridians.

Yes, but: The law is largely symbolic as it doesn't prevent lawmakers from addressing climate change in energy policy.

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