Tampa Bay Times: Florida’s climate change plan ignores what causes climate change

The Florida Legislature is spending millions to adapt to rising sea levels, but won’t cut greenhouse gases — and won’t let cities do it, either.

Despite years of warnings from top scientists around the world, Florida’s plan to address climate change involves only spending money to adapt to rising seas instead of cutting the emissions that cause them. In fact, the state has passed bills that work against those goals.

“You can’t do one without the other. When you do one without the other, it kind of negates the impact. It’s a job incomplete,” said Jonathan Webber, deputy director of environmental advocacy group Florida Conservation Voters.

A recent exchange between two state representatives over the future of Florida’s latest Chief Resilience Officer, the person in charge of the state’s response to climate change, underscores the dissonance.

Moments before the unanimous passage last week of a bill that would create an office and staff for the state’s resilience officer, Rep. Ben Diamond, a Democrat representing St. Petersburg, suggested an amendment that would also ask the CRO to research the best methods to reduce emissions in the state.

If the world doesn’t stop emitting greenhouse gasses quickly, the planet could lose its chance to keep global warming to a manageable level, which could be devastating for the Sunshine State’s economy and environment, climate experts say.

“Unless we’re charging our CRO with developing some policies about how we’re going to turn the tide back on these problems, we are not fully tackling this issue head-on,” he said.

The bill’s sponsor, Miami-Dade area Republican Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, shot down Diamond’s amendment.

“It doesn’t resolve real issues and I refuse to politicize this issue. Floridians don’t care about us scoring political points. They don’t care about what words we use, they care about action. They care about real results, and that’s what the bill does. And this amendment would hinder that,” she said.

The bill passed without the amendment, but with Diamond’s vote. He told the Miami Herald he was disappointed in that outcome but not surprised. He has suggested bills for years that would create a climate task force to examine the impact of climate change on the state, and other Democrats have pushed for bills that would force the state to stop burning fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy. None of them have ever been heard in a single committee.

“The reason why I’m so frustrated is this issue is so much more serious than adapting to flooding,” he said. “We can’t adapt our way out of climate change.”

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