By DeeVon Quirolo, Sierra Club Adventure Coast Group
Florida has one of the longest coastlines in the United States, with more than 8,436 miles of shoreline, including all inlets and bays. The combination of high tides, climate change-driven sea-level rise and storm surge are major threats to life and property.
Forecasters report sunny-day flooding has become more common throughout Florida in the past two decades, while hurricanes and storms are growing stronger and more destructive. Residents will see more occurrences of storms, such as Hurricane Idalia, that brought widespread flooding to coastal Hernando and Citrus counties and elsewhere in Florida.
Instead of bold action to help Floridians create safer communities and address climate change head on, the governor continues to veto our own tax dollars for popular, common-sense community benefits. Who are the leaders who will invest in our future?
There is a pressing need in Florida to fund regional resiliency planning. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is a strong advocate for such planning. According to the council, “In the face of sea level rise and climate change, regional resiliency planning can help minimize the impacts on communities and ecosystems. This planning involves a range of stakeholders — government agencies, businesses, and community organizations, who together identify risks and vulnerabilities, develop adaptation strategies, and implement measures to increase resiliency.” Florida can fund regional efforts now or end up paying more later for disaster relief funds.
Funding for Florida Forever is needed to purchase key lands within the Florida Wildlife Corridor before they are developed. The corridor provides a critical path for migrating species displaced by habitat loss and climate change. Rising temperatures are affecting crops and promoting harmful algal blooms. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program must be fully funded to help the agricultural sector adapt. The Blue-Green Algae Task Force recommendations must be adopted to turn the tide for our ailing springs and waterways.
Our utilities bills are driven up by the heat. Yet Florida lawmakers continue to allow corporate utilities to gouge the public. These companies must stop greenwashing their plans and reduce emissions at the scale climate science says is necessary to reduce climate change. Solar power is the cheapest, most secure way to power homes and businesses and reduce costs. Investing in solar will attract good-paying jobs for the working class.
As a result of rising disaster payouts, the insurance market in Florida is a mess, with skyrocketing premiums and insurers leaving the state. Clean energy would reduce climate-change impacts, which could stabilize this market. Yet the Legislature is considering bills to tax electric vehicles. Why not invest in our economy instead of burdening this emerging market?
I’m Florida born and raised, and we Floridians cherish our freedom. But the Legislature has stripped local governments answerable to local citizens of the freedom to address climate change, improve water quality and protect our natural resources.
Sierra Club Adventure Coast Group would like to work with Citrus County to implement a rainy season urban fertilizer ordinance to reduce nutrient-loading, as we did in Hernando County. Over 100 Florida communities have similar ordinances, with no adverse impacts, no legal challenges and great results. But the Florida Legislature prohibited such local action and approved funding for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to “study the issue,” which will produce a biased evaluation given its past position opposing such ordinances and ties to turfgrass and agrochemical industries. Is the next step permanent preemption?
Florida’s elected leaders must do more to make Florida a place we’re proud to call home. Now is the time to address climate change and restore the freedom of local governments to do so.
The Legislature must support plans to keep our communities safe from storms, promote solar energy, create job opportunities for the working class and allocate full funding to purchase strategic wilderness areas to protect wildlife and support our farmers. All of our futures hang in the balance.
DeeVon Quirolo is chair of the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Group. This piece is adapted from comments she made before the Hernando and Citrus legislative delegations, as covered in the Citrus County Chronicle on Nov. 1.