Over the weekend, we learned from the Miami Herald that Florida Governor Rick Scott pledged, if re-elected, to spend at least $1 billion over the next 10 years on a variety of environmental projects that include springs restoration, land-buying programs and developing alternative water supplies. The Governor’s actions show that he knows Floridians from all walks of life care about protecting the environment and think it’s a priority. We want to see the Governor do the same thing when it comes to climate change. We want him to craft a strong, ambitious state plan to comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
While it’s a nice thing the Governor wants to buy conservation land, but if that land will be underwater due to sea level rise and climate change, he’s missing the forest for the trees (or seas!).
Just this past weekend, the News-Press reported some scary news: “Southwest Florida is in imminent danger if sea level rises 3 feet,” a situation in which coastal areas would be “most vulnerable, but even some low-lying more inland areas, like Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers, would be submerged.” What makes this report truly disturbing is that, as the News-Press notes, the “Third National Climate Assessment, released earlier this year, predicts global sea levels will rise by 1-4 feet by 2100.” That means that much of Southwest Florida – including billions of dollars’ worth of coastal homes, infrastructure, and agricultural land – could be battling serious flooding by the end of this century or, most likely, much earlier.
The reality is what Florida urgently needs and what the majority of Floridians want is an aggressive, comprehensive plan to protect the Sunshine State’s economy and communities against the impacts of climate change. While land conservation programs are part of the solution, they are only a small part. Thankfully, Governor Scott has the ability to deploy real and more comprehensive solutions and pave a way forward to protect the state and that is the EPA’s draft rules on carbon pollution. Each state, Florida included, has a tremendous opportunity to craft the most cost-effective way to meet these standards, and can do so in ways that create jobs and save money on electric bills by expanding clean, renewable wind and solar energy and helping homeowners and businesses become more energy efficient. And Florida must develop a plan no matter who wins in November.
And guess what? The costs to the state to implement the EPA standards for existing power plants are negligible.
The good news is that Governor Scott’s recent comments demonstrate the “What’s Your Plan Gov?” campaign to encourage him to develop a state plan to meet the carbon limits is working. He has accepted a request from scientists to meet to discuss climate change and a similar request by evangelical pastors of the Evangelical Environmental Network to discuss their faith perspective. We were glad to hear it but we’re going to keep pushing for Governor Scott to give us a strong plan that will protect Florida and the 19 million people who call it home.