By Pamela McVety, climate activist
In spite of his Ivy League education, Gov. Ron DeSantis does not follow the advice of scientists and medical experts when it conflicts with his political agenda and this hurts Floridians in many ways.
In response to climate change and the pandemic, DeSantis has made decisions that have cost lives and damaged the state. He has ignored the advice of professionals and not followed the science.
He uses the words “climate change,” which is an improvement over his predecessor, and he hired a resilience officer. However, she left for a job in Washington in February after serving only six months.
This is an example of a politician simply paying lip service.
He could have dusted off Gov. Charlie Crist’s Climate Action Plan or even written his own plan. He could have rallied the state to cut its carbon emissions and educated Floridians on what we are facing. He could have started preparing our economy to weather the climate crisis and could have created good paying clean energy jobs.
While he has done nothing to address the climate crisis, two major ice formations in Antarctica are destabilizing. One is called the Doomsday glacier. And in Greenland, the largest still intact ice shelf just lost a chunk of ice the size of two Manhattan islands. These losses contribute to serious sea-level rise for Florida, a problem that has gone from being a nuisance straight to our pocketbooks.
Extreme heat is killing Floridians, especially the poorest among us. There have been almost 200 records for hot temperatures this year, and through June, it has been the hottest year on record.
A recent study from the Union of Concerned Scientists warned that without drastic intervention, Florida temperatures will rise to life-threatening highs over the next 16 years.
COVID-19 hit Florida like a Category 5 hurricane, killing more than 14,000 residents and making thousands more of them sick. It crippled the state’s economy.
From the beginning, DeSantis did not follow CDC advice on how to slow and stop the spread of an airborne virus by requiring everyone to wear masks and keep a sensible distance from others.
He opened the state up while the virus was spreading, contrary to experts. He ordered teachers and children back into the classroom while there was still a high number of daily new cases. Some teachers are quitting, preparing wills and at least one has written an obituary.
As a grandparent and the parent of a teacher, I have to quarantine myself from my own family because they are back in school. No hugs. No meals. No special trips for ice cream. No more physical contact until possibly next summer.
If DeSantis had listened to medical experts, much of this could have been avoided.
His Phase 3 reopening order allows large gatherings, opens many businesses and prohibits enforcement of local mask ordinances. It’s a gamble that he is going to lose. Medical experts say he is putting more Floridians in harm’s way, especially as we go into flu season.
Florida’s death toll from the virus is over 14,000. Let’s not gloss over this. People are dying unnecessarily because there is no mandate that we follow basic public health guidance.
We should consider all this health and environmental damage when DeSantis runs for re-election in 2022. We need elected officials who follow the advice of scientists and medical experts.
Pam McVety, a biologist and Florida native, worked in executive positions for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for 30 years dealing with water management, marine resources, ecosystem management and coastal zone management. Since retiring in 2003, she has lectured, marched, protested and written about climate change.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.