Ron DeSantis signs a bill.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs legislation on May 15, 2024.

(Photo: Ron DeSantis/X)

Don't Say 'Climate': DeSantis Signs Bill Removing References From State Law

"This purposeful act of cognitive dissonance is proof that the governor and state Legislature are not acting in the best interests of Floridians, but rather to protect profits for the fossil fuel industry," one climate advocate said.

Forida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a bill that erases most references to climate change in state law, deprioritizes it in policy decisions, and eases regulations for natural gas pipelines while banning offshore wind installations in state waters.

DeSantis signed the bill despite the fact that Florida is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the climate crisis—both from sea-level rise and extreme weather such as heatwaves and hurricanes. Indeed, on the day of the signing, Key West tied for its highest heat index on record at 115°C, heat that was made at least five times more likely because of the burning of fossil fuels.

"This purposeful act of cognitive dissonance is proof that the governor and state Legislature are not acting in the best interests of Floridians, but rather to protect profits for the fossil fuel industry," Yoca Arditi-Rocha, executive director of climate education nonprofit the Cleo Institute, toldThe Associated Press.

The bill's opponents told AP that it exes out nine references to climate currently on the books. It also takes steps to promote fossil gas—which already provides nearly three-quarters of Florida's electricity—and makes it harder to ban gas stoves and other appliances.

Further, AP reported:

The legislation also eliminates requirements that government agencies hold conferences and meetings in hotels certified by the state's environmental agency as "green lodging" and that government agencies make fuel efficiency the top priority in buying new vehicles. It also ends a requirement that Florida state agencies look at a list of "climate-friendly" products before making purchases.

The law, which goes into effect July 1, "is very much out of line with public opinion," Greg Knecht, director of the Nature Conservancy in Florida, toldThe Washington Post. A full 90% of Floridians believe climate change is occurring, 69% of them want the state government to act on it, a Florida Atlantic University survey found.

Florida is already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis from Wednesday's high heat and humidity in the Keys to last year's Hurricane Idalia. Moving forward, Florida was ranked 10th in a list of states or provinces with the most physical infrastructure at risk from climate impacts by 2050.

"This feels like Act 1 of a Greek tragedy," the Environmental Voter Project wrote on social media in response to the signing.

Knecht told the Post that DeSantis and Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature were willing to address the effects of the climate crisis—the governor earmarked more than $28 million to study flooding vulnerability in each county last year—but would not acknowledge the cause of the problem or discuss solutions that involved reducing emissions.

"On one hand, we recognize that we're seeing flooding and we're seeing property damage and we're seeing hurricanes, and we're conveying to the public that we can build our way out of these problems," Knecht said. "And then on the other hand, we're turning around and saying, 'Yeah, but climate change isn't really real, and we don't need to do anything about it.'"

This may partly be because, as green advocates told Post, the climate crisis has become a culture war issue that DeSantis can use to attract media attention and right-wing voters, as he has done with high-profile attacks on abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

Others blamed the influence of the fossil fuel industry.

"Fossil fuel companies don't like competing with clean energy," Democratic Florida Senate candidate Carlos Guillermo Smith wrote on social media. "So they donated to Ron DeSantis who signed a law that bans offshore wind, eliminates energy efficiency grant programs, and deletes any reference to 'climate change' from state statute."

"GOP = Profits over people always," Smith said.

Progress Florida wrote: "While Gov. Ron DeSantis does the dirty work of corporate polluters, Floridians are left to suffer as the state becomes more unaffordable and the natural treasures of the people who have farmed, hunted, and worshipped here for generations are destroyed."

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