DeSantis signs bill scrubbing ‘climate change’ from Florida law

Florida will eliminate climate change as a priority in making energy policy decisions, despite the threats it faces from powerful hurricanes, extreme heat and worsening toxic algae blooms.

On Wednesday, the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, signed the legislation, which is set to go into effect on July 1. The measure also removes most references to climate change in state law, bans offshore wind turbines in state waters and weakens regulations on natural gas pipelines.

“The legislation I signed today [will] keep windmills off our beaches, gas in our tanks, and China out of our state,” the governor said, according to the DeSantis-friendly outlet Florida’s Voice, which was the first to report that he had signed the bill. “We’re restoring sanity in our approach to energy and rejecting the agenda of the radical green zealots.”

Supporters say the new law helps the state prioritize a concern of Floridians - energy affordability, which they say is threatened by excessive regulation. But some climate advocates said the measure is largely symbolic and would have little effect on the Florida’s shift toward renewable energy. Solar power is booming in the state and, despite Republican lawmakers’ desire to curb construction of wind turbines, Florida isn’t windy enough to have piqued the wind industry’s interest.

Rather, environmentalists said the new law is the latest example of DeSantis’s eagerness to use climate change as a culture war issue such as abortion and transgender rights to bring national attention to himself and hit the right notes with right-wing voters.

Earlier this month, he signed a bill banning lab-grown meat from the state, though the product isn’t commercially available. In a post on X accompanying the announcement, the governor said the law would protect Florida from “global elites” at the World Economic Forum, falsely claiming that the annual gathering of political leaders in Davos harbors plans to force the world “to eat fake meat and bugs.”

Greg Knecht, director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida, said the new measure removing most mentions of climate change “is very much out of line with public opinion.”


The latest survey by Florida Atlantic University found that 90 percent of Floridians accept that climate change is happening and 69 percent support state action to address it. Many of the survey’s respondents also reported negative experiences with flooding and high winds from tornadoes and hurricanes, which may explain why Floridians report being more concerned than Americans nationally.

To Knecht, the new law highlights a growing disconnect in the state.

Republican lawmakers, who control the state’s Legislature, have voted for major spending to address the effects of climate change, including pouring millions of dollars into flood control projects and efforts to fortify drinking water and wastewater infrastructure threatened by rising sea levels. Last year, the governor gave the state’s Department of Environmental Protection more than $28 million to update flooding vulnerability studies for each county.

At the same time, DeSantis and other Republicans have portrayed climate solutions like reducing carbon pollution as radical and part of a left-wing agenda.

“On one hand, we recognize that we’re seeing flooding and we’re seeing property damage and we’re seeing hurricanes, and we’re conveying to the public that we can build our way out of these problems,” Knecht said. “And then on the other hand, we’re turning around and saying, ‘Yeah, but climate change isn’t really real, and we don’t need to do anything about it.’”

In addition to removing the term climate change, the new law would make affordability and reliability the focus of the state’s energy policy - an echo of conservative talking points that seek to portray renewable power as too expensive and untrustworthy.

“It feels like we’ve taken a major step backward and are no longer recognizing the dangers of greenhouse gases,” said Raymer Maguire, director of campaigns and policy for the Miami-based CLEO Institute, a climate activism nonprofit that supports clean energy.

The measure also removes language giving state officials the authority to set goals for increasing renewable energy in Florida. It ends requirements that government agencies consult a “climate-friendly” products list before making purchases, hold meetings in hotels that meet the state’s “green lodging” requirements or that agencies prioritize fuel efficiency when buying new vehicles.

Florida remains heavily dependent on natural gas for power generation, and the science is clear that burning more of it will contribute to climate change, potentially worsening the state’s flooding and heat problems. Overheating ocean waters are fueling stronger hurricanes, and when they hit, rising sea levels make storm surge more destructive. The state’s summers have always been sizzling, but it’s now experiencing more days of extreme heat. Miami had a 34-day run of 90-degree weather last year - its fourth-longest on record.

DeSantis has responded to these challenges by dismissing their causes.

“I’m not in the pews of the church of the global warming leftists. I’m just not,” he said on the 2018 campaign trail. As a presidential candidate, his economic plan called for weakening permitting requirements and ending emissions regulations to speed up oil and gas production. He staged the announcement at an oil rig site in Texas where he described the Biden administration’s climate policies as “part of an agenda to control you and to control our behavior.”

He has also taken aim at local efforts to protect people from the effects of climate, signing a law last month that bars cities and counties from writing regulations to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat. This is a growing problem in a state where construction and agriculture are huge industries.

Addressing climate change wasn’t always a polarizing issue in Florida.

Former governor Charlie Crist, who was elected in 2006 as a Republican, used his first State of the State address to call climate change “one of the most important issues that we will face this century.” He helped persuade the Legislature to pass a popular energy and climate bill that allowed the state to create a cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power companies.

But much of what Crist put in place didn’t survive the administration of Florida’s next governor, and now U.S. senator, Rick Scott. According to reporting by the Miami Herald, under Scott, state officials in charge of environmental protection were barred from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in official communication.

The Trump administration borrowed this tactic in 2017, when it took down much of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s online material explaining global warming and why it is worth fighting. Biden reversed the move four years later.