Florida has been called a “ground zero” for climate change in America, as the state is expected to face the highest temperature rise in the southeast; will suffer the consequences of a longer, wetter, and stronger hurricane season; must secure drinking water as the major aquifer of South Florida is threatened by salination; and must deal with sea-level rise that could sink up to $23 billion in existing property by 2050.
And yet, for the past decade, Florida Republicans — taking a cue from former Governor Rick Scott — have refused to even say the phrase “climate change.” (Scott had reportedly barred state officials from using “climate change” and “global warming” in official correspondence.) As especially low-lying cities like Miami Beach already deal with the effects of a warmer planet, the era of GOP ignorance-is-bliss appears to be over. This week, the Republican-controlled Florida Senate held a meeting to determine how lawmakers might mitigate climate damage on a basic infrastructural level.
“We lost a decade,” said Republican state senator Tom Lee, the chair of the Committee on Infrastructure and Security. “There hasn’t been a lot of conversation about this. I understand that, and I understand why.” In the meeting, as relayed by the Miami Herald, Lee did not mention Scott’s reported ban on the subject. Hearing from experts on the challenges ahead, the committee addressed sea-level rise, infrastructure, and how local governments have dealt with climate resiliency projects despite state-level reluctance. One major problem that came up in the meeting is that, for the past decade, the Florida Department of Transportation has been planning and building infrastructure projects based on a one-foot sea level rise, when a two-foot change is expected as early as 2060.
Despite setting a low bar of good intentions, Republican senators made no effort to translate their concern into policy, stopping short of saying “the Republican governor and the GOP leadership of the House and Senate, as well as the development, utility and insurance industries that finance them, will support” the new acceptance of climate change, according to the Herald. Climate nihilism, a reliable bastion of conservative climate inaction, also reared its head when GOP state senator Travis Hutson asked what the point of changing state policy was if China and India continue to produce greenhouse gases.
Hutson’s perspective is still the dominant view of the national party and the Trump administration. On Thursday, Mick Mulvaney announced that the G7 conference would be held at the Trump National Doral Miami resort in 2020. Aside from the obvious grift of hosting the Group of Seven at a Trump resort (from which the president has not divested) that is losing money, Mulvaney also announced that “climate change will not be on the agenda.”