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Florida Gov. DeSantis signs bill that deletes climate change from state law

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This week, Key West, Fla., experienced record-high temperatures, with a heat index of 115 degrees. Even the late Jimmy Buffett would have had trouble finding enough margaritas for that. Parts of South Florida were also hit by smoke from wildfires burning hundreds of miles away in Mexico. This is also the week that Governor Ron DeSantis signed legislation that removes the words climate change from many state laws. Amy Green has been covering this. She is the Florida correspondent at Inside Climate News. Welcome to the program.

AMY GREEN: Thank you. It's nice to be here.

INSKEEP: OK, so what does that Florida law mean?

GREEN: Well, the law restructures Florida's energy policy so that climate change and addressing planet-warming pollution no longer are priorities, and instead, the priorities now are reducing reliance on foreign energy sources and strengthening the energy infrastructure here against, as the measure says, natural and manmade threats.

INSKEEP: OK, natural and manmade threats. There might be an implied climate change in there, but not the words climate change. So what are the implications of not saying climate change and signaling this is not a priority?

GREEN: It's important in a uniquely vulnerable state that, just in the last few years, has experienced record heat and the costliest hurricane in state history, Hurricane Ian, in 2022. And the other thing here is that the new law also means the state won't be intentional about transitioning toward cleaner energy, things like wind and solar. For example, the measure bans offshore wind development within a mile of the coastlines.

INSKEEP: You said won't be intentional. Florida did have goals to enhance renewable energy use. What happens to those goals now?

GREEN: This law nullifies those goals, which were aimed at moving the state toward 100% clean energy by 2050, and that's a benchmark scientists say is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Keep in mind that here in Florida, the primary energy source is natural gas. The renewable energy goals were implemented in 2022 after some 200 young Floridians, all under the age of 25, filed a petition for rulemaking calling for them. I talked with one of those young Floridians, Delaney Reynolds. She described the new policy as, in her words, despicable and actually infuriating to read about and follow.

INSKEEP: Although clearly, the Republican-led legislature in Florida had a different view.

GREEN: That's right. This law is also right in line with Governor Ron DeSantis' rhetoric on these issues. As governor, he's described himself as, quote, "not a global warming person," and he's focused the state's climate policy on the Resilient Florida Program, which his administration characterizes as a historic investment to prepare communities for rising seas, more intense storms and flooding, and that program is aimed at hardening the infrastructure here. As a former presidential candidate, he said he would expand American dominance in oil and gas, and went so far as to promise he would replace the words climate change with energy dominance in national security and foreign policy guidance, and you see that reflected in this state legislation.

INSKEEP: Does the legislation match with what Floridians want?

GREEN: Not really. A new survey out this week from Florida Atlantic University shows that 90% of Floridians think that climate change is happening, and that's compared with 72% of all Americans who believe the same.

INSKEEP: Amy Green, the Florida correspondent for Inside Climate News. Thanks.

GREEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Amy Green