By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – On August 1st, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Dr. Julia Nesheiwat as Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). Add that to appointing the state’s first chief science officer, Dr Tom Frazer, and DeSantis is clearly a different kind of Florida Republican leader.
Now it seems the GOP-led Florida Senate is ready to embrace the change, holding its first-ever hearing on climate change last month — with experts presenting data on water intrusion and its impact along the state’s 8,400 miles of coast.
The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee held a meeting on October 14th, dedicated to the long-term impacts of climate change. Senator Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and chair of the Committee, said he was pleased Florida hasn’t ignored environmental threats.
“We lost a decade,” said Lee, “There hasn’t been a lot of conversation about this. I understand that, and I understand why.” Adding, “I’m elated you have been thinking a good long while, one might have thought you weren’t on account of the way things work in Tallahassee.”
As the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, while the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee’s meeting on climate change was a landmark, even some of those who participated said it did not result in any commitments to action.
Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit that promotes renewable energy said, “The question will be, what will Governor DeSantis — the governor’s administration — allow to happen?”
Jennifer Jurado, the chief resilience officer for Broward County. “I felt as if there could’ve been some stronger statements about immediate opportunities and next steps, […] I think we do have quite a bit of information …and it should be presented as the basis for planning.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s sole statewide elected Democrat, has unveiled a package of legislative proposals, including grant programs and research into the impact of climate change.
As an initial step, she says a greenhouse gas inventory should be conducted for individual, state-owned buildings, to gauge how much government, itself, is contributing to Florida air problems. “There’s no time to waste in getting started,” Fried said.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a four-county coalition formed in 2010 to share resilience strategies, has since been joined by similar organizations spanning Tampa Bay and East Central Florida.
Also in June, Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach came together on Thursday to announce the long-awaited Resilient305 Strategy. In September the City of Miami and Dutch government officials finalized an agreement that will bring the Netherlands-based Global Center on Adaptation’s (GCA) first U.S. office to Miami.
“State agencies are now beginning to collaborate on these important issues and gather at a leadership level to talk about resilience and how to plan for sea level rise,” said Noah Valenstein, secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
“The chief resilience officer is helping make that happen, much like the chief science officer has been leading the charge on water quality recommendations,” he added.
The CRO reports to the Executive Office of the Governor and will work in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Also the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in addition to local communities and stakeholders.