By Pam McVety, climate activist
You need to pay attention to how Gov. Ron DeSantis is running Florida government. DeSantis — while speaking in Pinellas County on Dec. 7— referred to climate change as “left-wing stuff” and neglected to even use the words “climate change.”
He said, “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. We are not doing any left-wing stuff.”
As a scientist and senior manager, I worked on environmental issues for 30 years for Florida Democratic and Republican governors who took their constitutional responsibility to protect the environment seriously. Not a one of them labeled protecting the environment “left-wing” stuff. What DeSantis is doing, and similar to what former Gov. Rick Scott did, is dangerous.
DeSantis is against a lot of stuff and when he is against stuff, namely “left-wing stuff,” he uses what sure looks like authoritarian tactics. For example, similar to how he has banned local governments from creating their own mask mandates to fight COVID-19, he also signed a bill in April that preempts local government action to restrict or prohibit the use of fossil fuels.
He ensures that Floridians can’t do “any left-wing stuff” by restricting choice and preventing local governments from operating as their citizens prefer.
Let me warn you that if DeSantis is willing to force the continued use of fossil fuels, he will likely be on board with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC’s) new campaign to push anti-climate legislation across the country.
ALEC is concerned that the fossil fuel industry is being discriminated against. It wants states to compile lists of entities that could include churches, universities, colleges, banks, businesses, and others that are fighting climate change by boycotting fossil fuel companies.
ALEC is explicitly targeting banks that are denying financing to creditworthy fossil fuel companies for the purpose of decarbonizing their lending portfolios. It also plans to focus on entities “divesting from fossil fuels” and corporations that have committed to the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Here is the significance of what’s happening — ALEC is proposing to use government against its citizens to help the fossil fuel industry maintain its business model.
Reminds me of McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, which kept a list of prominent Americans because of their supposed ties to fascists or communists. It ruined lives. ALEC’s agenda and governors willing to implement it are one more strategy to manipulate public opinion, hobble dissenters, and stop the country from addressing the climate crisis.
Calling actions to address the climate crisis discrimination against the fossil fuel industry is laughable and yet another PR campaign. They have decided to wear the mantle of victimhood.
The fossil fuel industry is the wealthiest and most powerful business in the history of mankind and not now, not ever will it be the real victim. Its leaders are conveying that climate activists and the business community are picking on them and they are correct.
This is an industry that for the last 30 years has used every PR trick in the book to preserve its business model in spite of the deaths, damages, misery, and financial costs its products cause.
Reality also doesn’t deter DeSantis as he tells us that we should focus on high gas prices, not climate change and cutting carbon emissions. He doesn’t mention that he really can’t do much about gas prices (except cut state gas taxes) or that the price of gas is predicted to fall below $3 a gallon soon. Since he cares so much about high energy prices for us, you need to ask him why the state Public Service Commission just approved millions of dollars in rate hikes for electricity and natural gas customers.
DeSantis has made it clear that his administration isn’t going to do any “left-wing stuff” – and when that directive applies to the climate crisis, it’s downright dangerous.
Pam McVety is a retired state scientist and climate activist.
“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.