Florida’s “Oh Shit” Moment? Or Not.

October 6, 2022

Above, rainfall map of Florida showing Ian’s impacts, tweeted by Miami Weather Forecaster John Morales, with commentary:
:The path of #HurricaneIan across #Florida plus storm-total rainfall. At least one location that saw over 15 inches got the bulk of that in the span of 12 hours, representing a 1-in-1000 year event. River flooding is still ongoing”

All of those who have studied and understood the climate challenge will affirm that they’ve had at least one “oh shit” moment, perhaps a cold sweat wake-up in the early morning hours, where they viscerally feel the implications of the developing storm.
Was Ian that moment for Florida? There’s always hope, but the history is not promising. Florida’s political leaders remain in a coma from which there is no woke-ing.

Rolling Stone:

“I THINK WHAT this has finally ended is the discussion about whether or not there’s climate change,” President Biden said in Florida Wednesday, standing amid the wreckage of Hurricane Ian in a striped shirt and his trademark aviator glasses. 

Nice thought, but Biden knows it’s not true. Millions of Americans think climate crisis is an invention of the deep state, or a conspiracy designed to take away their God-given right to burn as much coal, oil, and gas as they want.

But Biden’s comment wasn’t directed at them. It was for a guy standing right behind Biden as he spoke, scowling in a blue blazer: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

For DeSantis, the climate crisis is just another battlefield in the culture wars, no different from the evils of transgender bathrooms or a “Woke Disney.” “What I’ve found is, people, when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways,” DeSantis said at an event last year. “We’re not doing any left-wing stuff.”

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the idea of the climate crisis as a left-wing plot. What exactly does that mean — that it’s a conspiracy to give more Americans cheap, clean electricity? A trick to indoctrinate school children in the corrupting ways of science?

I have no idea what DeSantis really thinks, but I do know that he is a Florida hustler, not a Florida fool. He knows damn well that climate change is real, that it is fueling the destruction of Florida now, and that it will only get worse in the near future. He also knows it’s a good issue to provoke outrage among voters and rake in big bucks from fossil fuel companies, old world power utilities, and anyone else who profits by maintaining the status quo. It’s all a big game for DeSantis and his disciples: indulge the conspiracy, trash the science, pretend it is all fake news that is being sold to you by what he calls “the national regime media.”

So what if it gets people killed? So what if it just accelerates the investment in high risk areas and leaves the state of Florida woefully unprepared for what is coming? DeSantis has his sights set on the Oval Office. And you don’t run for president in the Republican Party by talking about the climate crisis or cutting the consumption of fossil fuels, much less ask voters to do hard things like pay more for flood insurance in high risk areas or, god forbid, design policies that prevent people from building back in high-risk areas. The idea of returning any part of the coast to nature is the equivalent of seceding territory to the enemy. The whole history of Florida is about subduing nature and paving over the swamps. Why change now? 

New York Times:

Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott voted against last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law, which devotes some $50 billion to help states better prepare for events like Ian, because they said it was wasteful. And in August, they joined every fellow Republican in the Senate to oppose a new climate law that invests $369 billion in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the largest such effort in the country’s history.

At the same time, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has blocked the state’s pension fund from taking climate change into account when making investment decisions, saying that politics should be absent from financial calculations.

In the aftermath of Ian, those leaders want federal help to rebuild their state — but don’t want to discuss the underlying problem that is making hurricanes more powerful and destructive.

As Hurricane Ian approached Florida’s coast, the storm grew in intensity because it passed over ocean water that was two to three degrees warmer than normal for this time of year, NASA data show. Its destructive power was made worse by rising seas; the water off the southwest coast of Florida has risen more than seven inches since 1965, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Finally, warmer air resulting from climate change increased the amount of rain that Ian dropped on Florida by at least 10 percent, or about two extra inches in some places, according to a study released last week.

Mr. Rubio has secured millions of dollars to restore the Everglades as a way to store floodwaters, and repair coral reefs to buffer storm surges. One of his House colleagues, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a South Florida Republican, has won billions for climate resiliency.

But none of the top Republicans in the state have supported legislation to curb the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.

With its sun and offshore wind, Florida could be a leader in renewable energy, said Representative Kathy Castor, a Democrat who represents Tampa. Instead, it imports natural gas that it burns to produce electricity.

“To not admit that climate change is real and we need to address it bodes nothing but a harm for the future for Florida and the nation,” said Charlie Crist, a former Republican Florida governor who won a House seat as a Democrat, and is now challenging Mr. DeSantis’s re-election.

Hurricane Ian is far from the first time Florida has felt the impacts of climate change. In Miami, the rising ocean means streets and sidewalks regularly flood during high tide, even on sunny days. In the Florida Keys, officials are looking at raising roadbeds that will otherwise become impassable.

Yet the state’s leaders have long resisted what scientists say is needed to stave off a catastrophic future: an aggressive pivot away from gas, oil and coal, and toward solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.

“Attempting to reverse engineer the U.S. economy to absolve our past climate sins — either through a carbon tax or some ‘Green New Deal’ scheme — will fail,” Mr. Rubio wrote in 2019. “None of those advocates can point to how even the most aggressive (and draconian) plan would improve the lives of Floridians.”

“We clearly want to, and need to, address the impacts of climate change,” Mr. Scott told NPR last summer. “But we’ve got to do it in a fiscally responsible manner. We can’t put jobs at risk.”

Hurricane Ian could be among the costliest storms to hit Florida, with losses estimated in the tens of billions.

The two senators also voted against last year’s infrastructure bill, which provided about $50 billion toward climate resilience — the country’s largest single investment in measures designed to better protect people against the effects of climate change.

That bill, which passed the Senate with support from 19 Republicans, included measures designed to help protect against hurricanes. It provided billions for sea walls, storm pumps, elevating homes, flood control and other projects.

Many of those measures were co-written by another coastal Republican, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who called it “a major victory for Louisiana and our nation.” Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, also a Republican, supported the bill, too. Both states face enormous threats from climate change.

But Mr. Rubio called it “wasteful” while Mr. Scott said it was “reckless spending.” Both voted no.

Mr. Scott and Mr. DeSantis did not respond to requests for comment.

Below, Senator Scott, “Climate is changing” but “we don’t know what the cause is”.


12 Responses to “Florida’s “Oh Shit” Moment? Or Not.”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “Let’s pause for a moment and consider the idea of the climate crisis as a left-wing plot. What exactly does that mean — that it’s a conspiracy to give more Americans cheap, clean electricity?”

    Dragging out a classic:

    • The climate crisis is not a left wing plot. … It’s a left wing cult!

      Also, Michael Shellenberger has debunked just about everything on the list in that cartoon.


      • ubrew12 Says:

        It’s possible, when not blinded by hate, for your mind to encompass the idea that the climate crisis is a real problem, and that nuclear is part of the solution. Try it sometime.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        How does moving away from fossil fuels debunk anything on that list?

        Per Shellenberger:
        “Few people know that nuclear is the safest source of electricity. Or that low levels of radiation are harmless.”This is someone who thinks the only reason their favorite technology isn’t supported is because of nuke-a-phobes (albeit inflamed by the coal industry), while cost and corruption and recent history of gross budget and schedule overruns being borne by taxpayers/ratepayers. Even the likes of James Hansen and Bill McKibben can’t wave away the dysfunctional nature of funding and construction of US nuclear power plants, and neither your nor John O’Neill has provided a real-world example of a modern nuclear power plant being built near budget or schedule.

        This is about all the nuclear power fanatics* getting their hate on for energy sources that have a quicker and more reliable Return On Investment, that can be quickly sited in remote and water-insecure locations, and that displace emissions in the near term when it is most important. Solar and wind have a quick-turnaround life cycle made possible by mass production, too.

        Yes, shutting down safe, functional, cost-effective nuclear power plants is dumb, but that doesn’t mean that PV solar and wind are bad. Eventually, the promises of commercially viable modular and/or “dry” NPPs may pan out, most likely in an autocratic place like China.

        “Or that nuclear waste is the best kind of waste.”
        Now they’re just being silly. How is it nuclear waste “better” than the waste of modern manufacturing and installation of PV solar and wind?
        *Nuclear power has its place, when the cost/benefit allow it, but some nuclear advocates willfully ignore the exorbitant costs of building new nuclear power plants, and seem blind to the existing problems that heat and drought (and age) have brought to the existing fleet. They bring up pretty diagrams of nuclear plant designs when the discussion is about real-world contracts, planning and cost.

        • John Oneill Says:

          ‘…a real-world example of a modern nuclear power plant being built near budget or schedule’ – Karachi 2, a Chinese-designed gigawatt-scale reactor in Pakistan, commenced construction 20 August 2015 and synched to the grid on 18 March 2021 – five years and seven months. Karachi 3, similar size, different design, started construction 31 May 2016, connected to the grid March 4 2022, five years and ten months.
          ‘According to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) study, Tuesday, 15 countries have built a total of 83 nuclear plants over the last 20 years among the 31 countries with nuclear power. It took on average 190 months to build each plant.
          During that period, Korea has built a total of 13 nuclear power plants. The average construction period for each plant was only 56 months, more than three times faster than other countries building nuclear plants. Japan, which has built a total of eight nuclear power plants since 1996, was the fastest, taking only 46 months to build each plant, while China ranked third, building 28 nuclear power plants during that period and averaging 68 months to complete each one.’
          Do you have any real-world examples of a country, or area, which has managed either low-carbon or low-cost electricity with a predominant percentage of wind and solar?

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            Do you have any real-world examples of a country, or area, which has managed either low-carbon or low-cost electricity with a predominant percentage of wind and solar?
            Is that a reason to shit on the S-curve growth of waterless, flexible, battery-backed wind and PV solar?

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            Personally, I’m pleased if China can make cost-effective nukes on schedule, and I’ve long cited them as the most likely exception to achieve anything. I’m sure sure Pakistan is indebted to them for the KANUPP investment, and will enjoy long-needed coal-free power to counter the suffering from catastrophic climate change.

            If South Korea can also build cost-effective nuclear power plants* near schedule and near budget, I am pleased for that, too. (Although I only see seven started since 2000 that are working: Hanul, four at Sin-Kori, and two at Shin-Wolsong.)

            Meanwhile, plants like Hinkley Point C and Flamanville-3 (currently addressing delays in fixing faulty welds) are long overdue and have taxpayers protecting investors from loss.

            My cynicism about nuclear derives from the many decades of unfulfilled promises about it (starting with an advocate waving off nuclear waste in the 1970s as soon to be resolved via glassification technology), the disconnect between design and real-world implementation, once living in a town that paid more per kWh than its neighbors because it had invested in a nuclear power plant, and being generally familiar with construction shortcuts that come with pressure on subcontractors. It doesn’t help that nuclear power advocates spend so much of their breath badmouthing the development and deployment of battery-backed wind and solar despite its impressive gains over the last decade.

            *Without faking certificates of reactor components or other forms of corruption.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “Climate has always been changing.”

    How do you know that?
    Could it be…scientists?

    You believe science about the distant past but not the measurable present?

    • John Oneill Says:

      The IAEA piece on time to completion of reactors was from 2016 -https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2016/10/123_215869.html
      You didn’t offer any examples of grids that managed low carbon, or low cost, using W&S. The nearest I’ve found is South Australia. According to Electricity map’s tool for aggregating past data, S.A. managed below 200 kW/gram CO2 for 3 of the last 12 months, with wind and solar producing a little over half – not sure if coal power imported from Victora is counted.
      5 year average -France 62% nuc, 10% hydro, 6.6% wind – 64 g
      Ontario 57% nuc, 22% hydro, 8% wind – 57 g
      Quebec 93% hydro – 28 g
      S Aust, 43.6% wind, 10.6% solar – 239 g
      Uruguay 47% hydro, 29% wind 129 g
      Tasmania 74% hydro, 15 % wind 79 g
      New Zealand 56% hydro, 19% geo, 6% wind 124 g
      Iceland 72% hydro, 28% geo 28 g
      Note that France has a bigger population than the rest of this list combined. With so many reactors offline, their emissions did go up, to 93 g last month. Germany’s monthly average was 315 g, with 39% of power from W&S.
      South Australia’s household power cost was 70% higher than Victoria’s in September, not just because of renewables, but it helped. https://www.canstarblue.com.au/electricity/electricity-costs-kwh/

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        You didn’t offer any examples of grids that managed low carbon, or low cost, using W&S.

        No, I didn’t. Why would I need to?

        Nuclear power plants have been around for a while (though old designs that rely on cool water are now failing more often due to global warming), and you expect W&S coverage to already compete? Offshore wind is the closest to nuclear power plants in terms of lead time and the scale of capital costs, but onshore wind installations, as Peter has well documented, have quick turnaround and benefit local communities via leasing fees and millage.

        Solar at all scales should be spreading like crazy—supply chains permitting—in low-latitude arid areas and islands and on stores, warehouses, school buildings, etc., especially the parts of the US southwest where existing hydropower is at risk, and in more remote regions of California that can be cut off (on purpose) to avoid transmission lines starting wildfires. Personally, I would love to see more solar arrays stuck out in SW Louisiana cattle pastures just to give the poor beasts some shade.

        • John Oneill Says:

          Most of the reactors in Europe and North America were build in a twenty year period. Advocates of solar and wind claim one of their primary virtues is speed of deployment, but solar has struggled to exceed 10% of power production anywhere (nuclear has been over 30% on more than two dozen grids, ranging from Japan, France, and Ukraine, to Finland, Armenia, and Illinois.) Wind has reached that level in a few places, but needing mass exports, backup, and curtailment. What are actually selling like hotcakes in California are oil fired generators, for those who don’t like blackouts, and can afford them. https://www.npr.org/2022/01/31/1076375363/home-generator-sales-boom-power-outages-climate-change

  3. neilrieck Says:

    Arthur C Clarke quote: “Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses.” This statement infers there are other mind viruses and I now think that “political thinking” and “political tribalism” are two more examples.


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