By Nathan Schiffer
For almost as long as climate change has been a policy issue, the Left has dominated it. The media often heralds the end of the world with increasingly hysterical headlines.
An article in The Guardian screams about the possibility of “Category 6 Hurricanes.” Hysterical headlines like that create more skepticism toward climate change than there ought to be. This trend has driven many conservatives away from the environmental discussion, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The next generation of the conservative movement, myself included, accepts that the climate is changing. What we do not accept is that radical, heavy-handed government policies like the Green New Deal must be enacted in order to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Florida is particularly susceptible to environmental damage, even before considering the effects of climate change. Hurricanes and red tide have serious ramifications on the tourist economy and local life, and climate change will make these hazards worse in the future. Because of these potential impacts, Florida should lead the way in tackling the issue of climate change.
Florida can be a national leader in tackling climate change by doing much of what it has done before: prepare. The state has a strong history of preparing for disasters and recovering from them since it is regularly in the path of hurricanes. There are in-depth plans in place to prepare for a storm and its aftermath, focusing on preparedness rather than hysteria. This is how plans to mitigate climate change ought to be developed and marketed. Climate change will cause issues to the state of Florida in particular, and some of these may be serious, but radical efforts on the basis of apocalyptic hysteria will ultimately do more harm than good.
The approach to climate change by the Left is possibly the biggest reason why conservatives have historically rejected the idea of climate change. According to many commentators and politicians, we have 10 years left to solve the climate change crisis, or the world will end. Consequently, those on the Left insist that not only must our lives be radically altered, but that the entire economy and energy sector must be upended. Like the rest of their solutions to the problems we face, the Left insists that people must do without.
Because of the economic and cultural importance of the environment to Floridians, conservatives in the state tend to be more environmentally focused than their out-of-state counterparts. This means that Florida can be a national leader in addressing climate change using free-market solutions. Tourism and agriculture are the two most important industries in the state, and each will likely be impacted by climate change.
Fortunately, both industries cannot only generate mitigation strategies to combat environmental damage, but they can also create and adopt methods to help lessen damage to the environment itself. The tourism industry has taken many actions to reduce its impact on the environment, and Florida can benefit from these actions. For example, hotels are increasingly seeking LEED certifications, a rating based on the environmental impact of the structure. Additionally, properties like the Walt Disney World Resort have large solar panel arrays to seek alternative forms of energy, decreasing the need for fossil fuels. The rise of ecotourism globally has also benefited Florida greatly. Tourists can participate in volunteer cleanups and other activities that allow them to clean up messes, rather than making them. The Everglades restoration is one of the most important ongoing projects in the country. Recently, Governor Ron Desantis signed an executive order calling for billions to restore the Everglades and fight algae. Not only do these projects to restore Florida’s environment help to repair damage done in the past, they also help to prepare for future impacts of climate change.
One area where Florida’s government and private enterprise can work together is the energy sector. Duke Energy, who provides electricity to almost 2 million Floridians, proudly asserts its aim to become a carbon-neutral organization by 2050. The Charlotte based company has focused heavily on diversifying its energy sources, bringing in nuclear, solar, and hydroelectric while deemphasizing the use of coal and oil. Florida can encourage these actions by Duke and other companies by providing incentives and loosening regulations for experimentation with alternative energy sources.
The Left continues to dominate the issue of climate change. It focuses too much on radically unrealistic solutions rather than sensible policy; it seeks to radically alter our way of life, rather than develop strategies to help us keep our way of life in spite of the changing climate. This has led many to grow distrustful of claims about climate change. In response, Florida can lead the way on this issue, not only in convincing conservatives to join in the conversation, but also in developing free-market solutions that do not require us to give up all that we have known in the name of an ill-defined concept.
Nathan Schiffer is a student at the University of Central Florida and campus leader with the American Conservation Coalition, a nonprofit aimed at engaging young conservatives on environmental issues.