Policymakers need to aknowledge causes of changing climate rather than damage control

College students have grown up in an age where climate change is at the forefront of public discussion. The symptoms of climate change have been normalized, especially for those of us living in the temperamental conditions of South Florida.

We adjust our plans when extreme weather systems cancel classes and force us inland for days. We barely bat an eye when we see news reports of flash flooding on Miami Beach. As policies begin to reflect the urgency of these increasingly erratic weather patterns, policymakers need to acknowledge their causes rather than limiting their focus to damage control.

Governor DeSantis’ recently announced funding through the Resilient Florida Grant Program to “help prepare coastal and inland communities for the adverse impacts of flooding and storm surge” addresses the effects of the changing climate without addressing the cause. A Miami Herald reporter asked when the state will address the root cause of climate change, but DeSantis did not answer the question and pointedly avoided attributing rising water levels to human-caused climate change.

The 113 projects funded will install new stormwater pumps and drains in flood-prone cities, convert septic tanks to sewer lines and elevate and flood-proof buildings throughout Florida over the next three years.

Miami-Dade County alone accounted for $160 million and 35 projects that will both enhance protection against flooding and help the countyreplase failing technology made worse by sea level rise. These projects will aid in protecting affected communities and are necessary to repair infrastructure already damaged by these weather events but do little to confront the source of the damage.

Scientists say there could be another 6 inches of sea level rise by 2030, and 2 feet by 2060. Five to six feet of sea level rise by 2100 is possible and would be catastrophic, physically displacing some 800,000 residents of Miami-Dade County and leaving a large portion of the city uninhabitable.

South Florida’s “resilience” has a breaking point. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the increased rate of sea level rise is caused by vehicles, industry and agriculture pollution, which raise temperatures, causing ocean water to expand and glaciers to melt.

If legislation continues to acknowledge the symptoms of climate change, such as sea level rise, without acknowledging the cause (greenhouse gas emissions), those symptoms will continue to negatively impact our communities. Eventually, attempts to make Florida more resilient will be fruitless, just as putting a Band-Aid on a wound does not stop it from bleeding.

DeSantis said in 2018 that he doesn’t know whether human activity is causing sea level rise, but he knows it is happening. Regardless of his take on climate change, he’s concerned that higher water levels are currently impacting and will further affect peoples’ lives and the health of Florida’s economy.

In the absence of measures to protect South Florida from flooding, DeSantis expressed worry that businesses might not want to move to or open in South Florida. His solution to that is resilience.

Prospective business owners and those looking to expand who are worried about flooding in Miami may believe human pollution is a cause of sea level rise. If this is the case, it would stand to reason that DeSantis can better attract their entrepreneurship through policy that aims to mitigate carbon emissions. Whether he believes climate change is to blame for sea level rise or not.

Florida needs a hard-line on carbon emissions. Introducing measures like cap-and-trade, as in limiting company emissions but permitting businesses to buy allowances from another if they wish to go over, would be a good place to start.

The state needs to establish a timeline for reducing dependency on fossil fuels. DeSantis should push to combine restrictions and incentives, requiring polluters to meet specific standards and offering benefits to those who surpass them.

Koch Industries, known for energy manufacturing and political involvement, is among the governor’s top ten contributors, with donations spanning from 2012 to 2018, the first three of which were during DeSantis’ Congressional runs. The Miami Herald noted in 2015 that former Florida Gov. Rick Scott, known for abandoning sustainability measures implemented by his predecessor, had flown to a private retreat hosted by the Koch brothers six months into office.

Political donors are not going to be those pushed out of their homes by flooding. As for UM students, many of us are starting to put down roots in the Miami area. Policy decisions like this one will affect us directly, and as said in the government’s national climate assessment in 2018, “future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today.”