Florida editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:
Tampa Bay Times on a new government report over climate change:
A new government report is only the latest official warning of the dire consequences of climate change and the immediate need to act. The stakes for Florida are particularly high, as rising sea levels, extreme heat and more ferocious storms further endanger lives, property and infrastructure in our fast-growing coastal state. While local communities have tried to fill the void, the impacts pose a national security challenge that calls out for state and federal leadership.
The report, mandated by Congress and released by the White House last week, lays out in blunt language the threat that a warming climate poses to public health, the environment and the economy. It warns that rising temperatures will cause more heat-induced fatalities and disease, and that extreme weather will increasingly disrupt agricultural production, leading to declining crop yields. Worsening droughts will further tax already-stressed public drinking water supplies, and lead to more severe wildfires, such as the deadly Camp Fire blaze only recently contained in California, the worst in that state’s history. And increased flooding will heighten dangers and increase the misery in disaster areas such as those in the Southeast and in the Florida Panhandle devastated by this year’s hurricanes.
The study, produced by more than leading 300 scientists and issued by 13 federal agencies, solidifies the overwhelming global consensus that warming has intensified and that humankind is the cause. It found that U.S. average temperature had increased by between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, with most of this increase having occurred since 1970. It blamed the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and other man-made activities as the primary cause of global warming of the past 50 years, and estimated that temperatures would rise another 2 to 4 degrees in most areas of the United States over the next few decades. The report also put the most precise figure to date on the cost of warming to the U.S. economy, estimating impacts to life, property and industries that could shave one-tenth from the U.S. economy by 2100 — more than double the loss from the Great Recession.
The report singles out the particular vulnerability of Florida, where rising sea levels put Miami and Tampa among those cities most at risk. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, health and climate experts in Florida said increased warming would worsen a range of chronic health threats, from heat strokes to mosquito-borne viruses, and that children, the elderly, tourists and those who worked outside are especially at risk. One participant, Dr. Ben Kirtman, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami, called for Florida to create a climate assessment of its own. That’s a great idea.
States and some communities are taking action because there’s no leadership on this issue in Washington, D.C., or Florida. The Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition is one of many bringing together scores of local governments to find ways to cope with climate change. But that’s an uphill battle when President Donald Trump dismisses the findings of his own administration’s report, and when Florida’s outgoing governor, Rick Scott, questions whether climate change exists.
The St. Augustine Record on concealed gun carrying permits:
... Republicans rule the roost in the House, Senate, Governor’s Mansion and, very soon, the State Supreme Court.
We’re not likely to see any meaningful gun control — and we’re not implying that we should. But it’s clear we can do a better job of the protections in place, including concealed carry licensing. It currently resides under the state Agricultural Commissioner.
Outgoing Commissioner Adam Putnam was embroiled in a controversy in which his office was accused of allowing hundreds of criminals to get carry permits. At least 300 permits were subsequently revoked. Pundits disagree as to how that affected his losing campaign for Governor, but it’s a good bet Ron DeSantis’ lockstep with President Trump was the major factor in Putnam’s political swan song.
Let’s agree on one thing: Licensing concealed weapons permits does not belong under the purview of the Agriculture Department.
So now Tallahassee is in a red-hot hurry to yank the permitting authority from the Ag Department. The reason is Nikki Fried’s election to that seat Nov. 6. She is a Democrat who campaigned on tougher gun control laws.
That won’t do in Tallahassee, though it was, for some reason, fine when a Republican held the office. The interesting twist is Fried, herself, wants the authority moved out of her office — to her credit.
Now the certain battle will reside elsewhere. It’s not a matter of moving the authority elsewhere — it is where.
The legislature will push hard to put state CFO Jimmy Patronis’ office in charge of permits. It’s as dumb an idea as hanging them on the Ag Commissioner. But Patronis is a Republican. And the National Rifle Association is pushing just as hard to make that happen. It could have something to do with NRA campaign contributions’ and lawmakers’ gun control points of view ...
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer says a bad place to put the responsibility for concealed carry licensing is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because “you don’t want this in an agency where the people are beholden to somebody who is a political appointee.”
She concluded, “Law enforcement agencies are the worst place for a program like this.”
Let’s forget for the moment that Patronis got his job as the state CFO as a political appointee of Gov. Rick Scott last year.
Currently, the FDLE does all the background checks for the concealed carry permits and enforces the gun laws. Who better to take over the permitting process?
It’s a no-brainer. But politics trumps brains with astonishing consistency during legislative session.
If we were betting people, we’d bet you’ll see Jimmy Patronis in charge of to whom and how concealed carry permits are issued in Florida.
Turn it around, it makes as much sense as putting the FDLE in charge of state finances.
South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald and The Palm Beach Post collaborate on Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’ role in addressing sea-level rise and climate change:
After skimming along the Everglades on a campaign airboat tour with Broward County’s venerable “Alligator Ron” Bergeron in September, Ron DeSantis, gubernatorial candidate, vowed to halt the green algae that oozes into the state’s canals and rivers, study the cause of red tides plaguing the state’s beaches, continue Everglades restoration and bar fracking and drilling for oil offshore.
Back onshore, Bergeron, an avowed conservationist who once led the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, endorsed DeSantis, a three-term Republican congressman, and predicted the two men could work together on restoration.
But there was something notably absent that day: An acknowledgment by the candidate that human activities are contributing to rapidly changing climate patterns worldwide, causing untold damage in the form of more severe floods, fires and heat waves, as well as rising seas along the coastlines, including Florida’s.
As the state’s newly elected governor, DeSantis shouldn’t remain silent for long. On Friday, less than a month after his narrow victory over Andrew Gillum, 13 U.S. government agencies released an unsettling major scientific report that warns of grim economic consequences if nothing is done to curb global warming — a report President Trump is downplaying.
It is commendable that Florida’s new governor is willing to commit time, money and attention to conservation. During the campaign, he characterized himself as a conservationist in the mold of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose breakaway Progressive Party, also known as the “Bull Moose” Party, championed conservation as a platform plank in the 1912 presidential election.
Decades later, conservation has done little to slow development in Florida. And that’s a critical point to note as the governor-elect heads toward his inauguration in January. Uncontrolled growth in Florida cannot continue unabated, given the environmental volatility facing the state today. And tighter, not diluted, regulatory enforcement must take precedence over aggressive development.
DeSantis’ predecessor, Rick Scott, now headed for the U.S. Senate, resisted accepting scientific conclusions pointing to climate change, though he has long boasted about his environmental credentials. While he budgeted $4 billion for environmental and water quality management for 2018-2019, prior expenditures failed to curb the red tides and algae blooms that have strangled state beaches and waterways. And during his tenure, he folded a growth-management agency into an economic development agency, cut staff for water management districts and shrank funding for the enforcement of anti-pollution laws.
Paul Owens, president of the 1000 Friends of Florida, a Tallahassee-based nonprofit that advocates sustainable communities and natural resource preservation, says the state needs to pay more attention to growth management instead of awaiting the environmental consequences of unbridled development.