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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.

Florida's economy would continue to grow if it cut out carbon emissions by 2050, study says

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection lashed out at a federal proposal aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, saying it "places the reliability, affordability and capacity of the nation's energy supply at risk."
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection lashed out at a federal proposal aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, saying it "places the reliability, affordability and capacity of the nation's energy supply at risk."

Florida could achieve net zero by 2050 while growing the economy, creating jobs, and reducing the costs of energy and transportation for consumers, according to the report.

If Florida were to completely stop burning climate-warming fossil fuels by 2050, the state's economy would continue to grow, according to a study by The Nature Conservancy, which contradicts what some say would happen if carbon emissions were eliminated.

The study used an existing greenhouse gas inventory of the state that was conducted by the Florida Climate Institute a couple years ago and added economic modeling to it.

It says Florida could achieve net zero by 2050 while growing the economy, creating jobs, and reducing the costs of energy and transportation for consumers.

“Investment in decarbonization would be… in the power sector, primarily, deployment of renewable energy resources. And then also, as you get closer to 2050, it would also include carbon sequestration, some hydrogen energy deployment,” said Janet Bowman, senior policy advisor at The Nature Conservancy.

“In the transportation sector, it's primarily the electrification of transportation.”

She said they wanted to take the politics out of the conversation for a purely economic point of view.

"To me, it tells a very hopeful story, that we can reduce our current carbon emissions in Florida, while at the same time growing our economy. So, it's not a story of pain, it's a story of gain, right?" said Bowman.

The report found it would cost just over $195 billion to convert the state's economy to zero emissions by 2050, which amounts to only one-fifth of what the public and private sector spent overall in 2022.

“The investment in both the power sector and Net Zero economy as a whole, while it is large, it is certainly doable, and doable in a way that that helps rather than harms Florida's economy as a whole,” Bowman said.

Researchers also calculated that the state economy would be 2% greater with decarbonization than without.

“So, the economy continues to grow as investment in decarbonization occurs over that period of time,” she said.

Michael Snipes, an instructor of economics at the University of South Florida, didn't take part in the study, but analyzed it and said this isn't the first time he's seen a study like this.

"It's something that could be done now. And we certainly could take more aggressive, bolder steps today. It's just we're not doing it. So, I think that this is really just kind of another contribution, saying that this is where we're going, this is what we need to do,” he said.

“I really don't have any problem with how the paper was written and presented its findings. I mean, it seems pretty rigorous. The data seemed like it came from all good sources, it used a legitimate model. So, I don't really have any strong concerns with it.”

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.