Group Urges Creation of Florida Legislative Committee on Climate Change

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Sea-level rise has been the main focus of Florida policymakers when it comes to climate change, but environmental groups are calling for a deeper analysis of wide-ranging impacts. File photo, Tampa, Florida, September 20, 2019, Editorial credit: fitzcrittle / Shutterstock.com, licensed.
Sea-level rise has been the main focus of Florida policymakers when it comes to climate change, but environmental groups are calling for a deeper analysis of wide-ranging impacts. File photo, Tampa, Florida, September 20, 2019, Editorial credit: fitzcrittle / Shutterstock.com, licensed.

TALLAHASSEE, FL — For the second year in a row, the group Florida Conservation Voters is calling on Florida’s incoming legislative leaders to create a Joint Select Committee on Climate Change. According to the group, Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson, R-Citrus, and House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls, R-Clearwater, are just skimming the surface when they talk about climate change. The two recently authored a joint op-ed about protecting coastal communities from sea-level rise.

Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters, said there’s a lot more at stake — and it requires a comprehensive look.

“It’s even bigger than that; it’s that we know that climate change is going to impact all aspects of Florida life in our society here in Florida,” he said, “and we need serious policy discussions about all of those different impacts, instead just focusing solely on an infrastructure problem like flooding.”

Both chambers already have announced leaders for existing committees. For instance, the House has only Republicans in leadership positions. The Senate is taking a more bipartisan approach in its committee assignments, with several Democrats as chairs. Despite those assignments, Webber said, if the incoming speaker and Senate president decide they want to add another committee, they can make it happen. He urged them to follow the lead of those in the business community, private sector and others to make the warming climate a priority.



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“If NASA, NOAA and our military can invest resources into addressing climate change, so can the Florida Legislature,” he said. “We need the facts, first and foremost, and the only way to get them is by having a place where the facts can be presented, discussed and debated in a serious forum.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed the state’s first chief resilience officer to focus on climate change — who left after six months to take a job in the Trump administration. Webber said he thinks the job is bigger than one person, and also took issue with the focus on resiliency to sea-level rise when he noted that other concerns are just as pressing — from increased heat waves and coral bleaching, to the overall impact on disadvantaged communities.

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