Florida’s new legislative leaders emphasize coastal resiliency, fend off climate change

The new Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Florida Senate vow to do more to strengthen the state’s coastlines after the double whammy of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

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But environmental groups argue that Republican lawmakers are missing a key piece of the puzzle: climate change.

When Governor Ron DeSantis took office, he was praised for using the term climate change.

It was a major change from the Rick Scott administration, which refused to use the term at all.

Read: Jacksonville’s GOP mayor splits with Florida GOP lawmakers over ‘giving up running’

But now there are signs that “climate change” could once again become a dirty word in the Florida Republican Party.

This week, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) evaded using the phrase when asked about environmental groups’ call for a special committee on climate change to be convened.

“It doesn’t matter what you call it. We call it resilience. You know, it’s just another one of those things where there are all kinds of terms,” ​​Passidomo said.

UNF political science professor Dr. Michael Binder said the choice of words could be linked to the rumored presidential ambitions of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Read: Florida’s special legislative session on property taxes and Ian’s recovery scheduled for mid-December

“If you want to run for president and navigate a Republican primary, you cannot be considered to have gone over to the dark left side of climate change and you need to think of this in other, more Republican-friendly terms.” Binder said.

On the House side, Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) is convening a special committee on hurricane resiliency and recovery.

He announced that the committee will focus on strengthening the building code and improving coastal infrastructure such as boardwalks.

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“Florida is getting better and better in the face of hurricanes, and I promise you I have great confidence and optimism that our ability as people to innovate and build our resilience will exceed anything climate change throws our way,” Renner said.

But environmental groups like Florida Conservation Voters argue that Renner’s approach fails to address the root causes of the state’s coastal problems.

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“It is not enough to react to the elements of the climate crisis in a piecemeal way. We must mention the issues by name and work proactively and holistically to address them,” FCV CEO Aliki Moncrief said in an emailed statement.

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