New Florida Guv Denies Climate Change, but Has to Acknowledge Sea Level Rise

January 18, 2019

As evidence, uhm, floods in that Florida real estate is being impacted by sea level rise, even the climate deniers like newly elected Florida Guv Ron DeSantis have to respond.

First Street Foundation:

Scientists from the non-profit First Street Foundation find $7.4 billion has been lost in home value across 5 coastal states from 2005 to 2017 due to sea level rise flooding. These findings have been integrated into Flood iQ, a sea level rise flooding prediction tool from First Street Foundation, so individuals can find property-specific value loss and aggregated total city loss.
Steven A. McAlpine, Head of Data Science at First Street Foundation, and Dr. Jeremy R. Porter, a Columbia University professor and First Street Foundation statistical consultant, recently released an academic publication in the journal Population Research and Policy Review proving $465 million was lost in Miami-Dade County real-estate market value from 2005 to 2016 due to sea level rise flooding.

This peer-reviewed analysis was expanded to cover all of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia by analyzing over 5.5 million real estate transactions in these states and extrapolating the results to 12.2 million properties, to find a total home value loss of $7.4 billion since 2005. Lists of the top 250 most impacted cities and ZIP codes have been released.

Previous academic studies have forecasted the negative impact sea level rise will have on the value of coastal properties in the future but “Estimating Recent Local Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on Current Real-Estate Losses: A Housing Market Case Study in Miami-Dade, Florida” is the first to show that depreciation has already taken place.
By identifying the predictors of home value, such as square footage or proximity to amenities, while controlling for economic trends like the 2008 housing recession, the scientists were able to isolate the impact frequent tidal flooding, caused by sea level rise, has had on home value.
“It is one thing to project what the future impacts of sea level rise could be, but it is quite another to know that the market has already responded negatively to this threat,” said McAlpine.

Miami Herald Editorial Board:

After eight years of Gov. Rick Scott degrading science and dismissing climate change, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will appoint a chief science officer to deal with “current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.”

This welcome turnaround came just two days after DeSantis’ swearing-in, in an executive order that also calls for $2.5 billion in Everglades restoration, creates a task force on blue-green toxic algae and instructs the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee.

In addition to the chief science officer’s remit to “coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis” on Florida’s environment, the order also creates an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency charged with corralling scientific research and data “to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.”

This is whole new tone for a governor’s office that told Floridians, basically, that we couldn’t afford to both create jobs and protect the environment. Scott cut millions of dollars from water management district budgets, which meant shedding scientists, engineers and other experts; slashed more than 200 water-monitoring stations; sharply reduced policing of polluters; rolled back growth-management laws.

We hope that Thursday’s executive order is a step toward reversing that trend — and more.

Indeed, the order also created something else that Thursday’s press release does not mention. Far down the list of Executive Order 19-12 — in the 26th of 27 paragraphs — the governor directs the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to:

“Create the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities.”

That’s right. “Climate change,” that taboo phrase in the Scott administration, gets its own office in the DeSantis administration.

Make no mistake: This could be a huge advance for the state of Florida as the existential threat of sea-level rise becomes more and more apparent, no matter your views on the underlying cause. Our collaborative editorial-page project, “The Invading Sea,” has been arguing for months for action at the state level to bolster localities that are organizing to make their regions prepared and resilient for the higher waters.

DeSantis did not talk about sea-level rise on the campaign trail, unlike his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum. And when asked about climate change, he questioned whether it’s man-made, adding that, in any case, it’s a problem beyond the capacity of state government to tackle.

But the former congressman from northeast Florida has surely noticed the more serious flooding that’s been occurring in Jacksonville, just as we in South Florida now see floods even on sunny days during king tides.

By appointing a science officer and setting up an office to ensure that all agencies are on the same page on environmental matters, DeSantis has now set the expectation that he will heed what science has to say — and not parrot the dodge used by Scott and other climate deniers, “Don’t ask me, I’m not a scientist.”

What scientists are predicting is that the sea will rise 2 feet, and maybe more, in the next 40 years. At 3 feet, barrier islands and low-lying communities will be largely uninhabitable. DeSantis is 40, the youngest Florida governor in a century. We are talking about enormous change — traumatic change — occurring within his lifetime, and certainly in the lifetime of his two young children.

The new Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection isn’t the only big news that DeSantis’ team seemed to bury on Thursday. The 27th and final paragraph of the executive order is for the DEP to “adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”

The new Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection isn’t the only big news that DeSantis’ team seemed to bury on Thursday. The 27th and final paragraph of the executive order is for the DEP to “adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”

This is another win for environmentalists who felt that the voter-approved Amendment 9 didn’t go far enough to protect the state’s shores from potential oil spills. It also puts a lid on any further legislative efforts to expand fracking in the Everglades.

DeSantis spoke at his inaugural in the heroic wartime cadence of Winston Churchill as he pledged to protect the environment (“We will fight toxic blue-green algae, we will fight discharges from Lake Okeechobee, we will fight red tide, we will fight for our fishermen, we will fight for our beaches …”). After years of an administration embracing climate deniers, our state desperately needs that same courage when it comes to preparing for the inevitability of rising seas and the threat it poses.

As DeSantis said in his speech, “Our economic potential will be jeopardized if we do not solve the problems afflicting our environment and water resources.” Very true. But you can’t ask for more jeopardy than our low-lying peninsula going underwater.

Because, contrary to what DeSantis said on the campaign trail, state government can do quite a bit to diminish climate change and a looming future of ever-more intense hurricanes, flooding and coastal erosion. Under conscientious leadership, the state could slash carbon emissions and encourage alternate energy sources. The most important swing state in politics could wield enormous influence on national policy.

In just his first few days, DeSantis looks to be off to a bold, strong start on the environment. But on the topic of sea-level rise, the proof will be in the follow-through.

7 Responses to “New Florida Guv Denies Climate Change, but Has to Acknowledge Sea Level Rise”

  1. realthog Says:

    This is good news indeed. I’d not expected much from such an evidently dirty politician as DeSantis, but it appears my pessimism was ill grounded.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    Wait till the splits will burst his balls.

  3. redskylite Says:

    When I visited Florida in the early 1970’s, especially the keys, it was full of beautiful people and hippies with flowers in their hair. The smell of pungent marijuana pervaded the magical sunsets at the beaches. Don’t tell me they have all become grumpy old republicans with an income from Exxon shares, please no, it cannot be so.

    Looks to be entirely different now, I hope that whoever is in charge of the region, employs some decent scientists and engineers, and of course listens to their advise.

    Only that will provide hope for a livable future.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      You’re not even allowed to smoke a cigarette on the site where once the Woodstock Open Air Festival took place. Times have changed, big time. Sometimes I think the late 60s and 70s were just a dream.

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    Anybody who says “I’m not a scientist” as code for “I don’t care what scientists know, I won’t allow any increase in taxes on rich people” or even more blatantly, DeSantis’ ‘I don’t know if climate change is caused by humans’ nonsense should hereby be disqualified from public office as being either too phenomenally stupid to find their office if elected, or lying so as to treat the public as too stupid to find the other candidates on the ballot.

    This middle (and necessarily short-lived) stage of admitting the obvious facts like sea level rise (when it begins to lap at your wheel wells) while still denying the only possible cause, is even more absurd and vomit-inducing than the previous “I’m so dumb I can’t read a research paper” position of outright denial.

    I give up. There will apparently be no controlled descent coordinated by sane people (ie democratic government) because the fossil fuel corporations will never release their grip on the nether parts of the public or politicians and allow any reality to creep into the debate. I’m now looking forward to the bankruptcy of every fossil fuel corporation in the US and elsewhere (I’m guessing Russia will be last) and the hurried packing and flight-by-night of the CEOs and BsODs as people come for them with the modern version of torches and pitchforks–light-casting search and arrest warrants, and AR-15s. The US has conceded its last shred of deserving a soft landing, and will best serve the world if it simply disintegrates into lawless post-apocalyptic zombieism now instead of waiting for ecology to catch up to emissions.

    I hereby declare a new group, the Clawbblies–the Climate Activists of the World. Every time some sphincter defecates on the national discussion with crap as foul-smelling as DeSantis’, s/he gets swarmed 24/7 by thousands of activists, invading personal space, lining the denying delayalist’s home sidewalk, blasting loud music of whatever kind the person hates most so the person can’t have a conversation, sleep or relax, ever, (maybe with videos of AOC dancing projected brightly on the windows) blockading home, office, travel routes, law firms, campaigns, banks… everything and everyone associated with the defecator until s/he retracts the statement and retires from public life.

    How long do ecologically aware people think we should go on tolerating the know-nothings’ push for human extinction and the end of most or all life on the planet out of what?–politeness and following the rules? (rules designed to preserve the status quo) How long will people allow their rage at the betrayal by criminal psychopaths like DeSantis to continue to be turned inward on themselves as depression and inertia?

    Go out and march today and talk to 100 women about climate direness.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Excellent rant, Jeffy! For once, I find little to argue with.

      Maybe Americans will rise up and do as you say one day! Right now, they’re too busy—–at the Mall—–shopping.

  5. neilrieck Says:

    What an idiot. It is the sea level rise since 1900 is the primary reason why scientists are convinced of “global warming” which causes “global melting”. Measurements from tide-gauges by seafaring nations indicate that sea level rose 20-cm (8-in) from 1900 to 2000. That translates to 2-mm per year. The problem here is this: radar satellites currently measure the rise at 3.2 mm per year.

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