New Florida legislative leaders emphasize coastal resiliency, sidestep climate change

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s new House Speaker and Senate President are promising to do more to fortify the state’s coastlines in the aftermath of the one two punch of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.


But environmental groups argue Republican lawmakers are leaving out a key piece of the puzzle: Climate change.

When Gov. Ron DeSantis took office, he was praised for using the term climate change.

It was a major shift from the Rick Scott administration, which refused to use the term at all.

Read: Jacksonville’s Republican mayor splits with Florida Republican lawmakers on ‘resign to run’

But now there are signs ‘climate change’ may once again be becoming a dirty word in the Florida Republican Party.

This week, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) sidestepped using the phrase when asked about environmental groups’ call for a special committee on climate change to be convened.

“It doesn’t matter what you call it. We call it resiliency. You know, it’s just another one of those things where there’s all kinds of terms,” said Passidomo.

UNF political science professor Dr. Michael Binder said the choice of words could be tied to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rumored presidential ambitions.

Read: Florida special legislative session on property taxes and Ian recovery set for mid-December

“If you want to run for President and navigate a Republican Primary, you can’t be seen as having gone over to the dark ‘woke’ left side of climate change and you need to think about this in other more Republican friendly terms,” said Binder.

On the House side, Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) is convening a special committee on hurricane resiliency and recovery.

He announced the committee will focus on beefing up the building code and improving coastal infrastructure like sea walls.

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“Florida is getting better and better at hurricanes, and I promise you I have great confidence and optimism that our ability as people to innovate and to strengthen our resiliency will outstrip anything that climate change sends our way,” said Renner.

But environmental groups like Florida Conservation Voters argue Renner’s approach doesn’t address root causes behind the state’s coastal woes.

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“It is not enough to react to elements of the climate crisis in a piecemeal way. We must call the issues out by name and work proactively and holistically to address them,” said FCV Executive Director Aliki Moncrief in an emailed statement.