Florida slammed for bill striking climate change from state law

When the water is too warm, coral expel their algae and turn white, an effect called "bleaching" that leaves them exposed to disease and at risk of dying off (Joseph Prezioso)
When the water is too warm, coral expel their algae and turn white, an effect called "bleaching" that leaves them exposed to disease and at risk of dying off (Joseph Prezioso)

Democrats on Thursday slammed a new law introduced by Florida that makes climate change a lesser priority and largely removes the phrase from statutes in the hottest state in the mainland United States.

The legislation, which was signed Wednesday by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and comes into effect in July, also bans power-generating wind turbines offshore or near the coast while reducing regulation on gas pipelines.

"The legislation I signed today... will keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks, and China out of our state," said DeSantis, who suspended his presidential campaign in January and endorsed Donald Trump for the White House.

"We're restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots."

Critics said the move ignores the threat of climate change in Florida, which is second only to Hawaii for yearly average temperatures.

The so-called "Sunshine State" experienced a record-breaking heat wave last summer as temperatures in its southern waters briefly topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C).

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described the move as "pretty shameful" and warned that there was "a lot more work that we need to do" to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

"Climate change is an indisputable fact, not a topic open for debate," Frederica Wilson, a member of the Florida delegation in the US Congress, added on social media platform X.

"The dire consequences of the climate crisis are evident every day in Florida, and attempts to undermine efforts to combat this existential threat are utterly reckless and irresponsible."

Of the state's 19.6 million people, 15 million live in coastal areas, the US government's Office for Coastal Management says.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assessed the 2023 heat wave's impact at multiple locations along its 255-mile (410 kilometer) barrier reef -- home to sea turtles, stingrays, sharks, dolphins and many species of fish.

They found less than 22 percent of approximately 1,500 staghorn coral -- a species that is listed as a candidate for endangered species protection -- remained alive.

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's labor secretary from 1993 to 1997, said Florida was facing yet another a record heat wave this week.

"Since 1980, there have been 87 weather/climate disaster events in Florida with losses exceeding $1 billion each," he posted on X.

"Tapping into the culture wars isn't going to protect Floridians from the harsh realities of climate change."

bur-ft/dw