Don’t Say Climate Change: Desantis May Regret Turning His Back in the Face of America’s Extreme Weather

Interested in how Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ climate change stance has changed over time? Let’s take a look.

Florida’s Weather Gone Wild

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Florida is currently in the grips of some of the most extreme weather ever seen in The Sunshine State. The first few months of the year began with the Florida Climate Center reporting that 2024 had the warmest start to the year on record, following a scorching 2023. Record heat waves, temperatures hitting all-time highs, followed by flash floods and torrential downpours days later. 

Scientists vs. DeSantis

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Scientists have been sounding the alarm that these extreme conditions are expected from a warming climate, but there’s been pushback from someone hard to argue with – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

DeSantis’ Approach

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Rather than looking towards scientists for methods to help people deal with the effects of climate change, DeSantis and his team have been downplaying concerns, focusing instead on the political angle. 

The “Don’t Say Climate Change” Bill

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Despite surveys indicating that a huge 90% of Floridians think of climate change as a real issue, in late June, DeSantis pushed ahead with his “Don’t Say Climate Change” bill – a law that removed most mentions of climate change from Florida’s laws, meaning legislators will no longer have to factor in climate change when making any policies – regardless of how harmful they are. 

From Green Governor to Climate Skeptic

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It’s a far cry from DeSantis’ early years in power when the media was touting him as “Florida’s green governor,” someone who had “done more to protect the environment and tackle climate change in one week than his predecessor did in eight years” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

DeSantis’ Early Days

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When DeSantis first took office as Florida’s governor in 2018, he presented himself as a bit of an eco-warrior. “I think that humans contribute to what goes on around us,” DeSantis once said when asked about global warming.

Bipartisan Praise for Environmental Efforts

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Early in his term he received praise from Republicans and Democrats for his plans to improve water quality and tackle sea-level rise – even creating an office to address the impacts of sea-level rise and securing sizable funding. 

The Algae Bloom Battle

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In 2018, Florida was grappling with severe algae blooms, and DeSantis jumped on this issue to position himself as a supporter of clean water. He criticized his opponent, Adam Putnam, for accepting support from sugar farmers who were blamed for the pollution.

The Fading Green Dream

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Despite early optimism, DeSantis’s commitment to climate change action faded quickly. While he kept talking about water quality improvements and Everglades restoration, he largely ignored the bigger picture of greenhouse gas emissions and other climate change issues.

Electric Buses

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In 2022, he announced a $166 million investment in electric buses –  framing it as a win for air quality while avoiding mentioning climate change.

Presidential Ambitions and Climate U-Turn

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Things really started to change when DeSantis launched his presidential campaign. In June, he vetoed a bipartisan bill that would’ve had the state buying more electric vehicles – which worked out cheaper in total than petrol vehicles over a long-term period. 

Activists Up in Arms

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Then, in July, he nixed funding that would’ve helped get $346 million in federal money for energy-efficiency programs, which would have reduced emissions and lowered electricity usage. These moves had climate activists furious.

DeSantis’ New Stance

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“I’ve always rejected the politicization of the weather,” DeSantis said in a Fox News interview a few months after beginning his presidential run. In a bid to sever his green ties, he refrained from ever again repeating his 2018 claim that humans can affect the climate, instead choosing to argue that climate change was a natural process.

DeSantis’ Campaign Promises

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Throughout his campaign, DeSantis promised to boost U.S. oil and gas output and oppose any attempts to introduce electric vehicles as the primary form of transport – policies that could speed up sea levels, meaning more flooding for people in Florida’s coastal towns and other seaside areas across the globe.

Hurricane Ian

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A year on from Hurricane Ian, which caused the deaths of 100 Florida residents, DeSantis was quoted saying that “human beings are safer than ever” from the impacts of climate change. 

Controversial Climate Education

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While students were pushing for climate change to be taught in school, DeSantis approved videos from controversial nonprofit PragerU for use in the classroom. These videos went viral as their climate denial and comparisons to nazism shocked Americans across the nation. 

Fostering Fossil Fuel Fans

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As one expert put it at the time, “These videos target very young and impressionable kids with messages of support for fossil fuels and doubts over renewable energy resources – they are trying to grow the next generation of supporters for fossil fuels.”

Emergency Declared, Funding Vetoed

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Fast forward to June 2024, and DeSantis issues a state of emergency for South Florida counties that have been hit by unprecedented rains and flash flooding. That same day, DeSantis vetoed $205 million from the budget, which would have gone to stormwater, anti-flood, wastewater, and sewer projects.

Climate Action Rollbacks

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Three weeks later, DeSantis signed the “Don’t Say Climate Change” bill and two other bills turning back the clock on climate action. These bills prevented offshore wind projects, expanded natural gas infrastructure, and reduced regulations on gas appliances.

What’s Next for Florida’s Climate Future?

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As Florida continues to battle extreme weather conditions, residents will be looking to DeSantis for support. The next few months could see him struggling for support come November, depending on the actions his administration takes.

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The post Don’t Say Climate Change: Desantis May Regret Turning His Back in the Face of America’s Extreme Weather first appeared on EcoHugo.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / The Old Major.

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