What climate change? As South Florida sizzles, DeSantis chooses denial with new law

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks about a toll highway relief program during a press conference held at the Greater Miami Expressway Agency on April 1, 2024, in Miami. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images/TNS)

This month has already proven be one for the records — the hottest May ever documented in Miami, based on the heat index, a “feels like” measure that accounts for temperature and humidity. The index this past weekend peaked at a staggering 112 degrees, the Herald reported Tuesday.

The extreme weather has been the result of a perfect storm of fewer clouds, moist air coming from the southwest and the air sinking and warming, an occurrence known as a high pressure ridge, the Herald reported. Last summer’s unbearable temperatures were influenced by the El Niño phenomenon.


But scientists have made it clear: climate change is making these record-high temperatures and hotter summers more common. The whole planet has gotten warmer.

As Miami-Dade County takes the lead by planting more tree canopies and having conversations about a green sustainable future, Florida has knee-capped many of those efforts.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation this year that prohibits local governments from passing heat protections for outdoor workers.Another bill he signed last week deletes most references to climate change from state law, among other things.

Ironically, both laws will go into effect this summer, on July 1, while many of us brace for another season of potentially sweltering temperatures and the possibility of farm workers dying from excessive heat, as it reportedly happened in 2023.

To give the governor credit, the state has invested millions of dollars in sea-level and flooding resilience projects and he even appointed a chief resilience officer. But Florida ignores that the long-term solution is to reduce carbon emissions, though we recognize that it takes more than one state to accomplish that.

House Bill 1645 removes the word “climate” from Florida statute in nine different instances, limits renewable energy production and likely expands the use of fossil fuels, according to the CLEO Institute. The legislation bans offshore windmill turbines and relaxes regulations of natural gas pipelines.

In some cases, the bill’s deletions of climate change seem innocuous. In others, those deletions are more far-reaching.

For example, Florida statute used to read: “The Legislature finds that… the impacts of global climate change can be reduced through the reduction of greenhouse gas emission.” That was removed and replaced with: “The purpose of the state’s energy policy is to ensure an adequate, reliable, and cost-effective supply of energy for the state…”

In some ways, the new law is a symbolic move that Florida is “rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots,” as DeSantis said last week. The state, for example, doesn’t attract much wind energy investment because of its lower wind speeds. Therefore, the practical effects of the HB 1645 might be minimal.

House Bill 1645 is as much about energy policy as it is about using climate change to launch culture wars as DeSantis fights to stay relevant ahead of a potential presidential bid in 2028. Yet the consequences of a warmer planet are not in some hypothetical dystopian future.

Florida has always been vulnerable to hurricanes, but, thanks to warmer ocean waters, there’s evidence they are intensifying more quickly. A warmer ocean also prompted an unprecedented coral reef die-off last year, the Herald reported.

According to NASA: “Due to global warming, global climate models predict hurricanes will likely cause more intense rainfall and have an increased coastal flood risk due to higher storm surge caused by rising seas.”

Florida is already dealing with a property insurance crisis as premiums skyrocket and homeowners are dropped by their insurers. Our state leaders would rather ignore how “more intense rainfall” and “increased coastal flood,” especially in places like Miami Beach, could make that crisis worse.

How much longer can we pretend reality isn’t happening before living in Florida becomes too unbearable?