Florida may soon require sea level rise studies before approving publicly-funded construction projects in coastal areas, under legislation adopted unanimously last week by the state House of Representatives.
The legislators sent the bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis for signature last Wednesday.
“Seventy-five percent of our constituents live in coastal counties, and it is not lost on any of us that there’s a very delicate relationship between our communities and the environment,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Vance Aloupis, a Republican from Miami-Dade. “This is a first step, but I think this is a first step that will allow our state to lead the nation on environmental policy.”
“We are on the cusp of crisis in this country when it comes to making decisions around climate change,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orange County. “We have so much more work to do, and I’m excited because I do think we’re beginning to talk about climate change more. Our governor has been more vocal on issues impacting sea level rise.”
The state had a long way to go, after the Department of Environmental Protection under former Republican governor and current U.S. Senator Rick Scott famously banned references to “climate change” and “global warming” in its communications. But DeSantis has shown more interest in climate resilience and adaptation since he took office early last year. In last week’s debate, legislators stressed the pragmatic need to prepare for rising seas, in a state that depends heavily on tourism.
“This issue goes beyond just an altruistic desire to protect Mother Earth,” Eskamani said. “This is also about our economy.”
“Three quarters of Florida is surrounded by water,” added Rep. Delores Johnson, a Democrat from St. Lucie County. “We are beautiful but fragile.”