Will Hurricane Ian force Ron DeSantis to face climate reality? | Ron DeSantis

When Ron DeSantis succeeded his Republican colleague Rick Scott, who denies the climate, as governor of Florida in 2019, environmental groups welcomed him as a breath of fresh air.

Red Tide Rick, as Scott became known to critics because of the state toxic algae bloomwas gone, and one of DeSantis’ first acts after taking office was to sign a record budget with $625 million for Everglades restoration.

He followed by appoints Florida’s first scientific directorgiving hope that the era of “green governoras he had no problem being recognized, began.

But now that Hurricane Ian, researchers say, has been rendered significantly more powerful As the climate collapse devastated large areas of Florida, DeSantis’ environmental credentials are once again under scrutiny. It also comes as DeSantis has risen to a position of national importance with one eye on a possible 2024 presidential election for a Republican party often still skeptical of the climate crisis.

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There have been successes, including an extensive three-year land acquisition program that has preserved over 113,000 acres of Florida for conservation. And in July, with an eye on tourism dollars, he vetoed a controversial water bill which analysts say threatens the restoration of Everglades wetlands.

But when it comes to the climate emergency, other moves have infuriated conservationists, including his signing a bill into law last year. lock florida in fossil fuels by prohibiting municipalities from committing to use cleaner renewable energy sources, including wind and solar.

“Governor DeSantis has been a disappointment at best. We’ve seen a lot of rhetoric from him and his administration, a lot of talk, but very little direction,” said Emily Gorman, director of the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposed the energy bill.

“We heard about his administration early on about blue-green algae. We were excited about it. To date, he has taken four of 31 recommendations [of a taskforce he established to find solutions].

“We heard a lot about resilience, which also sounded promising. This does not happen. Much of the funding for resilience either comes from the federal government or has been reallocated from our housing fund, literally taking dollars away from affordable housing efforts and redirecting them to bolster its own reputation on a false promise.

DeSantis is defensive about his record, but some observers see his evolving brand of “conservative environmentalism” as geared more toward an expected tilt in the White House.

“[His] initial enthusiasm for action eventually collided with his desire to score political points with potential voters in the 2024 GOP presidential primary,” Kartik Krishnaiyer wrote. in the New Republichighlighting DeSantis’ growing “anti-revival” focus and obsession with culture war republicanism.

In December, during a discussion of sea level rise, DeSantis refused to acknowledge the phrase “climate change” and compared global warming activism to “left stuff”.

It dragged its feet on Wednesday as Joe Biden, who joined the governor of Fort Myers to assess the damage from Hurricane Ian, said the scale of the storm had “ended the discussion” on the climate crisis.

“The governor calls people who work on environmental issues, and especially those of us who work on climate issues, enemies,” Gorman said.

“And if you really want to tackle the existential crisis that is climate change, we need everyone on deck.”

Other environmental groups have been more supportive. The Everglades Trust, which has backed Republican and Democratic candidates in state and congressional races in nearly equal measure, DeSantis approved midterm next month, describing him as the “American Governor of the Everglades” for his restoration initiatives.

The nonpartisan Audubon Society, meanwhile, praises DeSantis, but also acknowledges that much of the progress in resilience has taken place at the grassroots level, such as the south east florida climate change pact Alliance of several counties.

“Governor DeSantis has probably been the quickest we’ve seen in years when it comes to restoring the Everglades. On day one, he signed a far-reaching executive order putting his marker on the board, and he has been a tireless advocate, especially of credits for this work,” said Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida.

“We would definitely like to see further progress. Over the past 10 years, much of Florida’s climate leadership has come from regional climate pacts, city and county governments recognizing they can achieve more together.

“They’ve come together to identify what can be done to improve their resilience and reduce their climate footprint, and there are some really good models ready to scale up to the state level.”

Others are skeptical of DeSantis’ commitment to the environment.

“Conservation and resilience don’t address the root cause of climate change, which we know is our unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels,” said Brooke Ward, lead Florida organizer at Food and Water Watch.

“His administration pushed through preemption bills preventing localities from reducing fossil fuel use, and he approved a new gas plant in the Tampa Bay area that will lock the area in for another 30 years of burning fossil fuels.

“Hurricane Ian went from Category 1 to Category 4 in a single day, fueled by warm waters caused by fossil fuel burning and climate change, and it did nothing to talk about how we are trying to do anything to avoid storms like this in the future.

“It’s a complete denial of what needs to be done to protect a state that is literally sinking into the ocean.”

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