Florida tends to be a pretty lively place. Just look at all our crowded beaches, highways, stadia, hockey rinks, racetracks, bars, restaurants, casinos, and, sometimes, hospital ERs.
You may be surprised to hear that we’ve also got lots of amazing dead spots too — in other words, graves.
The most famous one is the Key West cemetery plot for B.P. Roberts with a snarky marker that says “I told you I was sick.”
In Marathon, there’s a statue of a leaping dolphin that marks the final resting place of the star of the 1960s TV show “Flipper” — actually, a female named Mitzi.
And in Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find the headstone for actor Leslie Nielsen, a devotee of whoopie cushion humor. His marker carries the perfect epitaph for a flatulence fan: “Let ‘er rip.”
Florida is now letting ’er rip with a lot more graveyard markers — but they won’t be called by that name. They’ll be called “resilience projects.”
“Resilience” is the word politicians use when they mean “climate change is an opportunity for me to hand out lots of big government contracts for construction work that will try to cope with rising sea levels.”
But resilience doesn’t do diddly-squat about all the other things that climate change causes. And some of those things can kill you.
The new Canute
A few weeks ago, Gov. Ron “The Billionaires’ Bestest Buddy Pal” DeSantis signed into law a bill to dump the contents of a couple of armored cars full of taxpayer dollars on “resiliency” projects around the state’s coast.
That $50 million of it came from the Biden administration is what Al Gore might call “an inconvenient truth” for the Biden-dissing Governor D.
If the lucky beneficiaries of this cash infusion are like the ones listed in this year’s budget, the money will pay for building pump stations, wastewater treatment plants, seawalls, drainage ditches, and the occasional “living shoreline” that restores vanished mangroves. It’s all aimed at coping with the flooding caused by sea level rise in the state’s low-lying areas.
(Note to self: Check back on which companies get these contracts and then cross-check with contributors to a certain political campaign.)
The agency in charge of handing out all this moolah just happens to be directly under the governor — just like his new 400-member Florida State Guard, which I have already heard referred to as “Meal Team Six.” The Statewide Office of Resiliency was created by another bill that DeSantis signed into law last month.
This concentration on resilience makes DeSantis the modern-day equivalent of the 11th century’s King Canute, who set his throne by the seashore and commanded the incoming tide to halt. As Canute knew, kings have no power over the ocean. DeSantis’ resilience projects won’t stop the rising tide, merely adapt the state’s coast to it — at least for a while.
What the governor never mentions when boasting about his spending on these projects is that they are not a one-time investment. As the seas continue to rise, we’ll have to redo a lot of these million-dollar projects over and over again.
The roads will need to be raised higher. The bridges will have to be jacked up more. The pipes and pumps will have to be enlarged or replaced to cope with the increasing water volume.
Still, the fact that DeSantis is doing something about sea level rise means he’s got a better record on climate change than his predecessor, Rick “I’m Not A Scientist And Also I Don’t Listen to People Who Are Scientists” Scott.
The list of things Scott did to counter climate change is so short you can inscribe it on the head of a — no wait, you can’t inscribe it on anything, because he did nothing. Basically, he gets an F and DeSantis a D.
There are a lot of other climate-related impacts that DeSantis is doing nothing about, because — like Scott — he refuses to face reality. Like Scott, he can’t even bear to say the words “climate change.” It’s as if, by keeping mum, he can avoid making the nightmare real.
I contacted the governor’s press office to ask what, if anything, he’s doing about the climate other than fighting sea level rise. They failed to respond. Perhaps they were too busy trying to spin his latest expensive court loss over one of the culture war bills that have kept him so busy.
DeSantis warned us about his aversion to even discussing climate change back in 2018 when he was a first-time gubernatorial candidate. He told WLRN-FM, “I am not a global warming person. I do not want that label on me.”
This is sort of like Charlton Heston looking at all the simian faces gathered around him and announcing, “I am not an apes-run-the-planet person.”
Well, you are now, pal, whether you want to be or not. We all are.
Cranking the global thermostat
Here’s why DeSantis is wrong to spend all those millions on nothing but pumps and pipes and higher roads: Climate change is attacking all of Florida, not just the coastline.
People who live in, say, Imperial Polk County are as much at risk of being killed by climate change as someone watching floodwaters rising in the streets of Key West, Miami Beach, or Fort Lauderdale.
I put in a call in early June to David Zierden, Florida’s official state climatologist (Yes, we really have one!). We spent some time chatting about our slow-rolling apocalypse — the climate, I mean, not the apes taking over.
“The increasing heat is a problem for outdoor workers, agricultural workers, and for tourists,” Zierden told me.
Roofers working on new homes in Lakewood Ranch, for instance, and those smiling kids who stand outside the Gainesville Chic-Fil-A to take your drive-thru order, and the migrants picking tomatoes in Immokalee — they are all potential victims of a warmer world. They (and their employers) all need to find a way to cope with days that keep getting warmer as the global thermostat gets cranked higher.
DeSantis is doing nothing to help those folks.
Think of all the costumed theme park characters in Orlando waving at the customers from inside their sweaty outfits. Worse, think of the middle-aged and elderly tourists at those theme parks, trudging along on the scorching asphalt with their screaming children and grandchildren.
DeSantis is doing nothing to help those folks, either. (But something tells me Disney’s going to be jacking up its water and soft drink prices.)
The nights are getting warmer too, Zierden pointed out. That affects the soil temperature for farmers and can hurt the growth of crops, such as fields of cotton in Jackson County. Warmer air also encourages the growth and spread of pests such as whiteflies and nematodes, he said.
The amount of rainfall during the summer is expected to increase as well, Zierden said. That’s pretty alarming news, considering some parts of the state already get downpours so large they make Seattle look like the Sahara.
Why, that much rain might even force a delay of baseball games! I mention it because I hear baseball is something the governor cares about, unlike climate change.
But during Florida’s March-to-June dry season, droughts will become more common too, he said. Extended dry spells would affect more than crops and cattle — it will lead to a lot more wildfires.
So, if you like breathing smoke-filled air and watching ashes flutter down on your new car, then you’ll loooove our hot new future. If not, well, you know whom to blame.
I haven’t even mentioned how warmer temperatures stimulate the growth of toxic algae blooms, or that they also help invasive plants and animals to spread.
More red tide fish kills stinking up the beach and more iguanas surprising everyone by popping up in toilets seem unlikely to appeal to anyone thinking of visiting the state.
I talked to another scientist about how all that heat is going to affect the 22 million of us who call Florida home, plus our 100 million annual tourists.
Bad news, folks: We can’t just turn the A/C on and forget about it.
“Heat is like our sea level rise,” said Christopher Uejio, a professor at Florida State who studies the human health impacts of the environment. “We are already seeing some effects of it today.”
A survey of 44 cities around the globe found that at least one-third of the deaths classified as being heat-related were in excess of normal, Uejio said. In other words, as the temperatures go up, the number of people killed by the increased heat seems to be going up as well.
“Extreme heat is really insidious,” he said. “It affects a wide range of bodily functions. It makes your heart pump harder. With your respiratory system, it makes breathing harder. And when you’re breathing in hot air, that makes your respiratory system work harder, too.”
Then he mentioned dehydration. That’s something I know a little bit about.
My kids’ Boy Scout troop went on more than a few warm-weather hikes through forests and swamps. Despite frequent warnings that they should carry a canteen and stay hydrated, inevitably there would be at least one hiker who’d wind up dizzy and nauseous.
Now picture most of the state feeling dizzy and nauseous — and not just because the governor paid for someone to write a sappy song about how great he is.
“Becoming dehydrated leads to mental confusion and impairment,” Uejio said. “Rates of accidents and injuries go up. Elderly people face an increased risk of falling down.”
All those millions that DeSantis is spending on seawalls and pumps won’t keep your Grandma Rose upright when she gets overheated and dehydrated, folks. Get ready to pay for a new hip — or a headstone.
Which reminds me: Climate change is clobbering your wallet, as well. A state with an increased risk from hurricanes, wildfires, heavy rainstorms, and other ills will naturally face an increase in property insurance rates.
Fans and a sweet tea
Last year, on one of those rare occasions when DeSantis actually took reporters’ questions during one of his “applaud-me-I’m-handing-out-money” events, someone asked him what he was doing about the causes of climate change.
“What I’ve found is, people when they start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways,” he snapped. “We are not doing any left-wing stuff.”
Then DeSantis uttered some statements that were so lacking in accuracy that I’m surprised he didn’t get a prize for fiction from the Pulitzer jury. He invoked high gas prices, “affordable energy,” and “anti-energy policies” by Biden. The implication was that fossil fuels are as good for Florida as drinking orange juice every morning. That may come as a surprise to anyone who watched globs of oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster wash up on Panhandle beaches in 2010.
DeSantis’ hostility to weaning the state from oil and gas reflects a national push by GOP lawmakers to fight against anyone trying to clean up the pollution now heating up the planet. Perhaps this is why, when Florida legislators were discussing the resiliency bills that DeSantis wanted, they shut down every effort to go after the causes of climate change.
This makes for a tough choice for The Man Who Would Be Governor Again (at least until 2024).
If DeSantis won’t even try to curtail the use of fossil fuels in the nation’s third-largest state, then he needs to start figuring out how to deal with what climate change will do to everyone who lives here.
Perhaps he can assign his Florida State Guard to run around handing out battery-powered fans and serving cool drinks with lots of crushed ice. I’d like a large sweet tea, please, no lemon.
Meanwhile, the guardsmen better take some of that money being spent on construction and plant a whole lot more shade trees, too. We’re going to need them if we hope to stay lively — and alive.
Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. In 30 years at the Tampa Bay Times, he won numerous state and national awards for his environmental reporting. He is the author of six books, including the New York Times bestseller Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country, which won a gold medal from the Florida Book Awards. His latest, published in 2021, is The State You’re In: Florida Men, Florida Women, and Other Wildlife. In 2020 the Florida Heritage Book Festival named him a Florida Literary Legend. Craig is co-host of the “Welcome to Florida” podcast. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and children.
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected] Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.
FPL has a Dashboard for each individual account that any residence has. The numbers are about the same for kWH usage, for any given month on month comparison. July billing for me is about the same usage June 9 (2021)/ June 8 (2022) to July 9 (2021 & 2022. There was an extra day in the billing cycle for 2022, 719 kWH for 2021 813 for 2022. Average daily kWH usage. June 2021, 23.97 kWH per day. June 2022, 26.23 kWH.
My power bill has increased because of 2 reasons, higher per day usage & the primary driver of the price of a kWH has experienced Biden inflation. Saving the planet has cost all of us more, and we’re still using the same energy at higher prices. Paying more for something that we we already had. This is like the Covid vaccine, no cure and trillions invested for a non-solution of lies & BS by experts looking to gain financially from doing little more than studying something that they can’t fix.
Similarly, May 2021 was 649 kWH vs May 2022 for 634 kWH of usage. The FPL data doesn’t prove DeSantis to be the villain here. The scientists are after more money to solve nothing that they have any control of. One year the temperatures in any given month are cooler or hotter, because that’s just the way the planet Earth rolls. Should be noted in the June-July dates, 2021, there was a tropical storm threat in that billing cycle around the 4th of July. In 2022, the closest threat of any storm was the early June 2022 TS Alex that wasn’t even a breezy day in Flagler county.
What has changed ? More new construction & land clearing. That’s on Flagler county & each of us as individuals, not DeSantis. Who is funding that growth ? Since we’re blaming single politicians, Biden-Harris ? Another driver, Ukraine war & implications of oil/fossil fuel availability & pricing. Not a conspiracy theory, just the facts that we’re back to man-made variables that explain away that the same time period year on year isn’t going to be identical. On one hand we have scientists that say the world is coming to an end (the Chicken Little’s that the sky is falling down & Boy(s) that cried Wolf. The other hand we have the pragmatic, that just suck it up and move to the future & not dwell on the past. End of the day, we all get 76-78 years on average as a life. The end of the world is more about each one of us dying rather than it is the planet Earth not being around for future generations.
Thank you, glenn beck on LSD.
Hilarious, you should get a little more educated about climate change. Scientists use a 30 year average that they can compare to other 30 year cycles going back to the 1880’s, not one year to the next. Yes you can compare last years temps to this years and find changes or similarities, yet you can’t claim nothing changed or did because you are looking at a small window. Ask any farmer how their business has changed over the years, they see it first hand daily. This is just a small little part of the big picture and is not only in America but world wide, just like inflation you mention.
Blame who you want but it’s Global Inflation.
Thank you for sharing this. I could have done without the fake smile Duh-poser picture.
Only thing changing the climate is rich developers, and so called green groups that protect nothing and take bribes for whining!
Simple solution, vote the Repubs out of office. Their work should say something about their intents. I will not vote Repub, in Nov.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Another HIT job , by tree hugging liberals. Complain, moan & grown…WHO CARES!!!! Flip Flop Charlie Crist, will never beat the best governor Fl ever had….Due to the wisdom of this man Fl has established itself as a leader in education, science, & jobs. Fl is booming. Everyone seems to want to live where they are FREE. Our governor has the balls to take on anyone, including the president when he knows he,s right…We have a leader, a man with vision, instead of complaining, open your eyes to a prosperous Fl. In case you havent noticed…our big cities , here in Fl had no rioting, no burning no bullshit, like the citied up north!!! Thank your lucky stars you have a governor that really cares about U
Say what you like he will not get my vote.
Nor mine again
He cares about Reelection