DeSantis rejects climate change rationale for record-breaking rain

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The rain has become political in Florida.

As residents and businesses in South Florida assessed the damage from this week’s historic rainfall and floods, Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration pushed back against assertions that the storm had anything to do with climate change.

A number of records were set as the storm known as Invest 90L inundated roads from Sarasota to West Palm Beach.

The Republican governor declared a state of emergency for South Florida, but at a news briefing Friday he downplayed the idea that the storm was unusual. He said there have been similar events “going back decades.”

“This clearly is not unprecedented,” he said. “I think the difference is, you compare 50 to 100 years ago to now, there’s just a lot more that’s been developed, so there’s a lot more effects that this type of event can have.”

His communications team also made light of the storm, dismissing it as typical summer rainfall. Christina Pushaw, the governor’s former press secretary, who is now an analyst with the state, wrote on X: “Welcome to the rainy season. South Florida is in the tropics. There will be thunderstorms for the next 4-5 months.”

No storm-related fatalities were reported, but some communities experienced waist-deep flooding and residents needed to be rescued.

The brouhaha over how to characterize the storm came a month after DeSantis signed a bill that removes most references to climate change in state law. The legislation, which is set to take effect July 1, eliminates climate change as a priority in making energy policy decisions, even though Florida routinely faces threats from extreme heat, deadly hurricanes and toxic algae blooms.

Florida Democrats, in turn, took jabs at DeSantis’s team for diminishing the storms just as hurricane season gets underway. The season started June 1 and forecasters predict it could be one of the most active on record. They also noted that DeSantis signed a state budget this week that vetoes about $205 million in stormwater, wastewater and sewer projects across the state.

“Living in Florida, what we’re seeing now is not just the same kind of weather that’s been happening for a thousand years,” said state Rep. Daryl Campbell, a Democrat whose district is in Broward County. “We see the impacts of climate change on our day-to-day lives, and we see a governor who vetoes what the legislature passed unanimously to help deal with it.”

Last month, a record-breaking heat wave enveloped the state, with temperatures as high as 115 degrees in Key West. The summer of 2023 was the hottest on record for several cities in Florida.

DeSantis and his administration scoff at critics who say the state should be doing more to address climate change.

“What amazes me about the current discussion on Florida’s weather is that the left seems to believe that @GovRonDeSantis can control how much it rains, but he just refuses to use his power to do so,” DeSantis press secretary Jeremy Redfern wrote on X.

The storm arrived 14 months after another “rain bomb” hit South Florida, dropping 22.5 inches on Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in one day. Last year’s storm knocked the city’s main hospital offline for all but emergency procedures, shorted electrical equipment at City Hall and left thousands of travelers stranded.

Both that system and this week’s deluge bear the fingerprint of human-caused climate change. In a warmer world, the atmosphere can hold more moisture. That means rainfall rates are getting heavier and extremes are becoming more common.

When DeSantis vetoed storm-related projects this week, he said local governments can find the money instead from the state Department of Environmental Regulation. He also pointed to his resilience budget, which includes more than $1.2 billion for projects such as $17.8 million to improve “technology infrastructure” at the state’s new emergency operations center.

DeSantis has pledged to focus on energy affordability rather than climate change. The law he signed in May bans offshore wind turbines and weakens regulations on natural gas pipelines.

“We don’t want our energy policy driven by climate ideology,” DeSantis said Friday. “When that happens, people pay more and the energy is less reliable.”

Read More: DeSantis rejects climate change rationale for record-breaking rain

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