Tuesday, May 21

Florida bill striking ‘climate change’ from law elevates concern amid expected ‘explosive’ hurricane season

A bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis regarding Florida’s energy use is drawing mixed reaction as meteorologists and safety leaders from across the state are in Palm Beach County to prepare for what’s forecasted to be one of the most active hurricane seasons yet.

Florida HB 1645 takes the phrase “climate change” out of state legislation and makes climate change a much lesser priority by restructuring the state’s fossil fuel-based energy policy that previously prioritized the changing climate.

In 2008, Florida lawmakers in both legislative sessions unanimously passed a bill to address climate change and promote renewable energy. HB 1645 removes the word “climate” in nine different places, and removes “climate change” at least five times.

The bill also strikes the previous law’s focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases blamed for warming the planet.

It comes as Accuweather meteorologists previously told WPTV’s Kate Hussey they are predicting an “explosive” hurricane season, forecasting as many as 20 to 25 named storms, four to seven of which could be major hurricanes. Almost all of those are predicted to directly hit the U.S.

Critics fear DeSantis’ new bill ignores the reality these dangers pose to Floridians.

Colorado State University’s top forecaster Phil Klotzbach told Hussey, part of the reason we’ve seen such active storm seasons is due to chronically rising water temperatures.

“The tropical Atlantic continues to be at record warm temperatures this time of year,” he told Hussey in March. “Warmer waters, mean more fuel for these storms.”

Ocean temperatures hit a record high in February, with the average global sea surface temperature hitting just below 70 degrees.

The Florida Oceanographic Society also blamed exceptionally warm water temperatures as a major contributing factor that fueled blue green algae on the Treasure Coast and along Lake Okeechobee.

Eric Roby, executive director of the American Red Cross’ Palm Beach and Treasure Coast Chapter, said he’s seen the impacts of the changing climate firsthand.

“The Red Cross does consider what is going on a climate crisis. We consider that by just looking at the number of natural disasters that were having. If we just drill down to those natural disasters that do more than a billion dollars worth of damage, adjusted for inflation, we had 28 last year,” Roby said. “Reverse all the way to the 1980s, we were only responding, again, comparing apples to apples, adjusting for inflation, to two to three billion dollar disasters a year.”

The bill also bans power generating wind turbines offshore or near the state’s coastline, which Klotzbach didn’t think would be a significant loss to Florida’s energy system.

“There’s not a ton of consistent wind across the center of the state,” Klotzbach said. “Places like Wyoming? Always windy, great place for wind turbines, Florida’s a bit streakier.”

The law takes effect July 1 and also boosts the expansion of natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas already fuels about three fourths of Florida’s energy. Eight out of the state’s 10 largest power plants are natural gas-fired, according to the US EIA.

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