Three Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation highlighted a new report on climate change focusing on the benefit to the state should the U.S. abide by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Reps. Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell put the spotlight on that report, which was prepared by the House Oversight Committee, during a Tuesday Zoom conference.
“We’re all put in danger if we don’t take action now,” Mucarsel-Powell warned, echoing years of warnings from lawmakers and health officials about the possible effect of unchecked global warming.
“Florida is ground zero for the effects of climate change,” she added. “We have been feeling the effects of climate change for the past decade. We’re seeing higher sea levels, extended periods of heat and stronger and more frequent storms.”
The new report is based on findings from Duke University professor Drew Shindell. Shindell is a physicist who specializes in climate change research and testified to the House this summer.
“If we are successful in keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius — which is what the Paris climate agreement sets out to achieve — we could prevent 101,000 premature deaths in Florida over the next 50 years,” Mucarsel-Powell explained, citing the new report.
“We could prevent 40,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. We could avoid more than 23 million lost work days. Collectively, avoiding these health issues could save Florida over $750 billion.”
Deutch warned the impact of unaddressed climate change would go beyond simply rising sea levels.
“Our state is in trouble,” Deutch argued.
“Whether you live on the east coast or the west coast, if you live in the Panhandle or if you’re right in the middle of our state, climate change doesn’t just mean warmer seasons. It means property damage to homes and businesses from sunny-day flooding and stronger hurricanes.”
Dr. Aileen Marty, who studies infectious diseases at Florida International University, expanded on the negative effects of warmer weather.
“It’s impacting, in South Florida, our fisheries. It’s impacting our coral reefs,” Marty explained.
“It’s impacting, therefore, tourism, jobs, biotech industries. By reducing the biodiversity of our planet, we’re reducing new medicines that we can make from innovative studies and research that we desperately need to combat all kinds of crises, including the current pandemic.”
Rep. Castor. pushed a 2019 bill that would have blocked President Donald Trump from withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. She again echoed the benefits of that agreement on Tuesday’s call.
“Florida has so much to gain when we tackle climate [change],” Castor said. “It can help make communities across our state more resilient to extreme heat and flooding, as we create jobs in clean energy.”
Dr. Paul Robinson, a retired physician from Tarpon Springs who joined Tuesday’s conference, also advocated for the U.S. to shift its energy sources.
“A very important thing we can do to reverse this is to speed the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”
Deutch framed the overall conversation in terms of the 2020 presidential contest between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“For the last 4 years, the Trump administration has been playing this game of chicken with mother nature,” Deutch said, citing the administration’s environmental policy and withdrawal from the Paris agreement.
Biden has promised to abide by the Paris climate accord should he succeed President Trump.
“Among so many critical issues that we’re voting on literally right now here in Florida is the issue of whether America is going to retain a global leadership position in tackling the most pressing issue facing the planet right now, and that’s climate change,” Deutch said.
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