Are climate and energy policies under Governor Ron DeSantis helping or hurting Florida?

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power plant / Seán Kinane/WMNF News
TECO's power plant in Apollo Beach spews greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (Jan. 2010).

The earth’s rapidly heating climate is already impacting Florida with dangerous heat waves, scorching oceans and strong storms.

Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis is pledging to promote fossil fuel development instead of renewable energy.

That’s interesting because previously DeSantis opposed fracking for methane.

On Tuesday Cafe, we spoke about Florida’s fossil fuel and climate policies under Governor DeSantis with guest Susan Glickman, a programs & policy consultant to both Florida Clinicians for Climate Action and ReThink Energy Florida. She has worked with the National Resources Defense Council, the Center for Climate Integrity and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Listen to the show here:

Record-breaking summer

The Associated Press reports that this “summer was the hottest ever measured in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the World Meteorological Organization and the European climate service Copernicus. Millions of Americans also were affected by the worst wildfire season in Canada’s history, which sent choking smoke into parts of the U.S. … And around the world, extreme heat, storms, flooding and wildfires have affected tens of millions of people this year, with scientists saying climate change has made such events more likely and intense.”

This summer has also broken records for sea ice (low) and ocean heat (high) and we’ve seen massive coral bleaching in the Florida Keys.

Watch this show here:

Gulf Stream is slowing

On Monday, the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters published an article called “Robust Weakening of the Gulf Stream During the Past Four Decades Observed in the Florida Straits” and it said, “We conclude with a high degree of confidence that Gulf Stream transport has slowed by about 4% in the past 40 years, the first conclusive, unambiguous observational evidence that this ocean current has undergone significant change in the recent past.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ response: drill, baby, drill

So all of this might suggest that the state of Florida would be doing everything it can to alleviate the causes of climate change and to prepare for its impacts. But the governor is doing close to the exact opposite.

In Texas last week, Governor Ron DeSantis put forward his energy policy platform that might be summarized: drill, baby, drill. DeSantis criticized efforts that other states and countries are making to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by moving toward renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Speaking in front of an oil rig in West Texas this month, DeSantis said:

“Make no mistake about it. We’ve seen a concerted effort to ramp up the fear when it comes to things like global warming and climate change. For example, The Oxford English Dictionary noted that between 2018 and 2020, the use of the phrase ‘climate crisis’ increased 20-fold and the phrase ‘climate emergency,’ 76-fold, making it their chosen word of the year in 2019. Now this is driven by ideology it’s not driven by reality. In reality, human beings are safer than ever from climate disasters as the death rate from climate disasters has declined by 98% over the last 100 years and the number one reason for that is people that have had access to reliable electricity and power.”

— Ron DeSantis

Some things that the governor put forward

• End subsidies for electric vehicles
• Pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord
• Withdraw the U.S. from a Global Methane Pledge
• In foreign policy/security guidance: replace “climate change” with “energy dominance”
• Florida is right to rely heavily on methane gas, which he said has lower emissions than coal
• Promised speedy permitting of new oil and gas permits and wants gasoline to be $2/gallon
• DeSantis called renewables “unproven technologies that lead to blackouts”
• DeSantis said, “I can’t rely on windmills, I need oil and gas to” get people’s electricity back on after a disaster

Susan Glickman responds to DeSantis’ claims about methane:

“In kind of a perfect world, a natural gas fueled power plant would be about half the emissions of the traditional coal-fired power plant. However, when you frack the gas — and fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing. And that’s when they put chemicals in, and it almost creates like a little earthquake to bring up more of this gas. And when you frack the gas, it releases methane.

“And on the lifecycle of that whole operation of a methane gas power plant — in the whole life cycle and bringing up the gas — can be as bad of an emitter as coal plant.

“And I can tell you, I recall the moment I was at a conference and listening to Princeton scientists talk about this, and I about fell out my chair. Because the whole idea was that gas was better than coal. It could be, but when you frack the gas, by and large, your overall lifecycle emissions are as bad as the coal plant. And the other thing that’s somewhat interesting about that, is this all takes an enormous amount of water.

“So we talk about climate change, but water is one of the biggest environmental crisis that we have — or the biggest — and it is made worse by warming, climate and drought.”

— Susan Glickman on WMNF

Fact-checking DeSantis

But some of what DeSantis said is easily disputed. Politico writes: “While the number of weather-related natural disasters caused by climate change has increased, related deaths have fallen over the last 50 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Experts attribute the decline to better forecasting and better infrastructure for dealing with extreme weather.”

Last year Hurricane Ian in Florida left “more than 100 people dead and destroying homes and businesses.” And Florida faces challenges related to sea-level rise.

The World Health Organization calls climate change “the biggest health threat facing humanity” and is likely to cause “approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress” from 2030 to 2050.

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

Tuesday Café airs weekly on WMNF beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen live on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on wmnf.org or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

You can watch replays on TBAE Network Channels at 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Tuesdays on Spectrum 636, Frontier 34 and watch.tbae.net. Or on demand.

You can listen anytime on demand on wmnf.org or by subscribing to the Tuesday Café podcast on your favorite podcast platform.

https://open.spotify.com/show/311qfxLFcO8F7ZvnjgZogD – WMNF’s Tuesday Café with Seán Kinane.

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