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The Florida Legislature Is Tackling Climate Change During Its Current Session

A biker in Miami
Al Diaz
Miami Herald
A biker in Miami

The state legislative session is underway in Tallahassee. And this year, lawmakers are acknowledging the reality of climate change and sea level rise. Efforts are underway to set up a statewide resiliency program to direct state spending and consider climate change impacts.

The Legislature is building the 2021-22 state budget over the next two months and committee hearings, chaired by Republicans, are working on how to address chronic flooding of streets and neighborhoods.

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Some environmentalists applaud the recent moves by the Legislature but insist the state needs to do more than address the symptoms of climate change; lawmakers also need to deal with the root causes.

Republican Rep. Chip LaMarca is a member of the House Environment Subcommittee. He is the sponsor of a bill that would create the Office of Resiliency. He joined the Florida Roundup to discuss the role of the state’s proposed resiliency office.

Here’s an excerpt of the conversation.

TOM HUDSON: What's the priority for this office if it is created?

CHIP LAMARCA: This position or these positions, the chief resiliency officer and the chief science officer were, at least the SRO [state resilience officer] was, created already under the governor.

But this would put it in the statute. And it's important. We have to have somebody who believes in science and doesn't allow the politics to get in the way of doing good policy.

But is the priority of the legislation creating an office, creating a position? Representative, what's the priority for those people who fill those offices to do for the state of Florida regarding resiliency?

There's multiple efforts. And in my bill, Resiliency House Bill 315, basically creates that office of the chief resiliency officer, which will chair the sea level rise task force. The chief science officer will be the vice-chair, both under the EPA and appointed by the governor.

What is it that you want to charge them with doing?

You're asking me what I want to charge them to do, but it's important to understand that a lot of our agency is going to be involved with this. The charge is to deal with the actual impacts of sea level rise and dealing with issues — look, I'm from coastal Broward, we have coastal issues: flooding, we have non-storm surge flooding, we have dry-day flooding. We have all these issues we're trying to deal with.

And I think it has to come from a statewide perspective of whether it's sea level rise issues dealing with seawalls, hardening our beaches, and things like that. So we want to actually get to the meat of the problem and not sit around and talk about it anymore. We want to get things done.

One of the meats of the problem, of course, is the underlying cause of warmer oceans, or wetter storms, more rainfall, of course, carbon emissions. Would you support efforts to have the state reach zero carbon emissions at some point in 30 years, for instance?

At some point and 30 years are two different things. I'd like to look at what we're doing. When I served in Broward. I was very, very proud that Florida Power and Light went to all natural gas.

It’s still a fossil fuel, though.

All right. So let's make the determination, is it cleaner than the previous fuel? I mean, we have to get there in steps. You've got Democrat senators from Montana who don't believe in what we're doing on some of these issues. I believe in getting to the meat of the problem and fixing it. It’s a lofty goal that the federal government wants to do. We can probably adhere to parts of that here in Florida and come up with pragmatic ways to roll it out.

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Denise Royal produces The Florida Roundup. Her broadcast experience includes writing and producing for NBC’s The Today Show, Weekend Today, Weekend Nightly News, and MSNBC. She also worked as a Writer/Producer for ABC News and Nightly Business Report on PBS.