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Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

Advocate says Big Energy is the 'only winner' of Florida removing climate change from state law

Ron DeSantis at the podium
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1645 into law Wednesday.

While Gov. DeSantis said he's "rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots,” a climate activist says Florida is digging its "head in the sand."

References to "climate change" will soon be mostly removed from Florida's state code.

House Bill 1645, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, also weakens regulations on natural gas pipelines and bans offshore wind turbines in state waters. It also ends the requirements that state agencies consider fuel efficiency for new vehicle purchases, consider “climate-friendly” products, and hold meetings in what are deemed as “green lodging” spaces.

This comes as hurricane season approaches during what's expected to be another record-breaking hot summer.

More than a decade ago, under former Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida implemented several measures aimed at reducing climate-warming emissions, like expanding renewable energy use, and House Bill 1645 undoes what’s left of that policy.

This also eliminates renewable energy goals set in 2022 after a couple hundred Floridians filed a petition asking the state to get to 100% clean energy by 2050.

Fossil fuels are largely used to create electricity in Florida, and the burning of them puts heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, leading to sea level rise, extreme heat and more powerful hurricanes.

Yoca Arditi-Rocha, the executive director for the nonprofit and nonpartisan CLEO Institute, said Florida is on the frontlines of a warming climate.

"And instead of leading in this issue, we're digging our head in the sand,” she said. “The rhetoric, and the language says that this is no longer a priority for the state of Florida … We feel that this is fiduciary negligence.”

She said that the same people behind the industry that has been responsible for global warming are the only winners, and that “Floridians are the losers of this recent law."

DeSantis said on X about the legislation, “We’re restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots.”

His office would not comment further or answer specific questions posed by WUSF, and the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa), did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis has focused on the Resilient Florida program, which provides community grants for vulnerability assessments and resilience projects, but he has been openly disinterested in addressing the root cause of an increasingly warming climate: the burning of fossil fuels.

“Is our governor being responsible with our taxpayers’ money? Are we going to continue to be putting money into adaptation infrastructure to cope with more flooding, to cope with more storm surge, to cope with more increasing sea level rise, but not tackle the problem at the root of the source?” Arditi-Rocha asked.

The new law will go into effect July 1, but Arditi-Rocha said there's a possibility it could be challenged in court.

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.