Author Archives: DReynolds

Governor Reality? Let The Sunshine In

“Our economic potential will be jeopardized if we do not solve the problems afflicting our environment and water resources”

– Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis

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Congrats to Florida’s new Governor Ron DeSantis who was installed last Thursday as Florida’s 46th Governor. Thanks are in order to Governor DeSantis for quickly giving those of us who have been desperate for environmental leadership here in the Sunshine State following eight bleak, dark, years during your predecessor’s two terms some rays of, well, sunshine over the first few days of your Administration. I look forward to working with you, the Department of Environmental Regulation and other Florida leaders to protect our state’s future.

We have so much work to do to catch up on to protect and save Florida that I am hesitant to show too much optimism, eight years of Rick Scott will suppress anyone’s hope for solutions, but the news in the first few days of the DeSantis Governorship hold positive promise and include:

1. The appointment of a Florida “Chief Science” Officer. The fact that you understand the value of science and research is, on its own, a tremendous step in the right direction and a dramatic difference as compared to your predecessor. Thank you.

2. The creation of the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency to coordinate science and data with the state government’s various departments and agencies is also welcomed news. Using the words accountability and transparency with the word environmental here in Florida are almost impossible to believe after the past eight years. Bravo.

3. Your Executive Order is about as important a change in direction towards protecting Florida as anyone could hope for. It seeks a whopping $ 2.5 Billion for Everglades restoration, a task force to address toxic algae and directs the South Florida Management District to begin fixing Lake Okeechobee (and in a separate, but surely related, step late last week the Governor requested that the entire Board of the South Florida Water Management District resign so as to ‘clean house’ and seemingly pave the way to clean the Everglades and Lake in the process). Wow.

Your Order also makes clear your opposition to oil and gas exploration, including fracking, along Florida’s coasts. Floridians, I am certain, appreciate your position but also how strongly you expressed your view by stating that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection shall “adamantly oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida”. Floridians of every political party celebrate your position on this important topic and especially appreciate the word “adamantly”, something we all agree upon and a position that would seem to even challenge your number one supporter during last year’s campaign, President Trump.

And yes, within that same Executive Order we find your direction that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection create the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. As your Order stated, the purpose of this new Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection is to “help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities”.

Wait.

What?

Did Florida’s new Republican Governor use the three words “sea”, “level” and “rise” together? That alone is a dramatic step forward and I for one am sincerely grateful that Governor DeSantis appears to arrive in office carrying a dose of reality that our state can’t survive unless we address climate change. It’s possible that the fact that we don’t have a day to wait to begin solving our climate change crisis and within it the threat to Florida’s very future, certainly that of South Florida, from sea level rise has begun to sink in.

His name might be Ron, but perhaps in time he will become known as Governor Reality and show what I have long thought, that Florida can have a robust economic future while addressing the causes and impacts of climate change. The Governor might not want to publicly debate or dissect man’s impact in causing this crisis but, as long as he sets in motion policies, processes and funding to allow Florida to begin solving its share of the problem and to mitigate its impact as much as possible, then that might just work. It sure is a start. And speaking of work, and a start, how about we work to make Florida a global leader in the production of solar panels and technology? How about we work together to see solar power installed everywhere and in doing so create new businesses and great paying jobs all over Florida so that The Sunshine State can become The Solar State?

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Okay, enough “hopeful” talking from a kid for now. Now “let’s get to work” on protecting Florida and trying to save South Florida in particular from the threat from sea level rise. With a new year, Governor and direction upon us let’s embrace what these initial steps suggest might be achievable; that we set politics aside as absolutely much as possible and focus on the science and solving our significant environmental problems.

You can read more about Governor DeSantis new policies and how both esteemed writer Carl Hiaasen and the Miami Heralds Editorial Board  by clicking here and here. You can read Governor DeSantis Executive Order by clicking here.

Solar & Sustainability Lip Service?

I think solar panels are beautiful, and I am not just talking about the fact that they can help us shift from fossil fuel energy to a clean sustainable solution. I think they are beautiful to look at too, but some leaders in the City of Coral Gables appear to think otherwise and on Tuesday will consider legislation to essentially prohibit them being placed on the street side of one’s house in the so called “City Beautiful”.

In fact, Coral Gables wants to place their view of what looks acceptable, thus aesthetics, ahead of allowing a property owner to benefit from solar, ahead of placing one’s solar panels in the best possible location to capture the sun if that means they can be seen from the street, and such a limitation is short sighted if you truly want to help lead the way in solving our climate change crisis.

Much of the proposed law begins with a fight that Gables resident Daniel Martinez and his family, who have been battling the City over where he’s allowed to place his panels on his roof. Not only did the City tell Mr. Martinez that his family could not place panels on the part of his roof facing the street but we’ve now learned that the City, while pretending to be supportive of solar and sustainability, has made decisions that led to at least 30 other homeowners to abandon their solar permit plans for seemingly similar subjective reasons.

I am incredibly disappointed in the City of Coral Gables’ Mayor and Commission for the roadblocks you have allowed residents to be subjected to, as well as for allowing the proposed limitation to be in your 2019 Legislative Priorities. You can read about what’s happening in the City of Coral Gables here:  https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article223187560.html.

And, on this Tuesday the City will consider passing legislation that says they “support” Florida’s Solar Rights Act, but goes on to say that they oppose any law that would inhibit the Gables’ “ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels“. Should Coral Gables pass that law they will have shown their true colors and make clear that they are in favor of solar but only if they subjectively like the way it looks and have a say over where panels should be placed no matter what the sun and physics deem best.

Here is a summary of the city of Coral Gables’ ridiculous Legislative Priorities Memo and their Legislative Priorities Resolution highlighting their true view related to solar power (I have marked the key wording in red):

SOLAR

Support the rights afforded under the Florida Solar Rights Act (Section 163.04, Florida Statutes). 

Oppose legislation that would limit the City’s ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels.   

  WHEREAS, The City of Coral Gables supports the rights afforded under the Florida Solar Rights Act (Section 163.04, Florida Statutes), but would oppose legislation that would limit the City’s ability to regulate aesthetics as it pertains to the installation of solar panels;

On Tuesday night the City of Coral Gables Commission gets a chance to redeem itself and decide whether it’s truly serious about sustainability and doing its part to solve our climate change crisis or, as resident Katherine Newman wrote in the January 6th, 2019 Miami Herald, just giving “lip service” to being “green”. Here’s what Ms. Newman wrote:

GABLES’ LIP SERVICE

The Dec. 26 article “Rooftop solar panel rules frustrate homeowner,” is exactly what most of us in Coral Gables expect: A long, expensive, frustrating process to get any permit (which is why many residents do work without permits).

Coral Gables gives being “green” a lot of lip service, but it does not put our money where its mouth is. Overdevelopment, with massive high rises reaching to the edge of our main streets, is one example. The traffic already is unbearable. What will it be like when the 60-story behemoth on U.S. 1 is finished? The CO2 emissions from all the cars will continue to increase.

In Gables by the Sea, we have been begging for shade trees for 25 years and have been largely ignored. The EPA says that urban “heat islands” contribute to climate change. On our two main streets, the temperature gets to 119 degrees on hot, sunny days because there is no shade. We pay enormous amounts of property taxes and have been unable to get desperately needed shade trees.

We are not fooled by the green talk. Coral Gables needs to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to pay the unfunded pension deficit. Enormous commercial buildings that contribute to traffic and take away green space will hurt our environment, but will create tax revenue. A homeowner, trying to do the right thing and install solar energy, is irrelevant to the city.

– Katherine Newman, Coral Gables

Saying you are dedicated to helping solve the biggest challenge that kids in my generation will face during our lifetimes often makes adults feel good, but actually putting your money, or your vote, where your mouth and heart is, is another thing all-together. Tuesday night the City can show all of South Florida, and the world, whether it’s either serious or not.

The Biggest Challenge Facing the Insurance Industry: “Climate Change”

One of the first interviews that I ever conducted, I guess I was 14 at the time, was with Dr. Ben Kirtman, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). Dr. Kirtman was incredibly gracious with me that day and offered hours of insight, as well as my very first tour of the RSMAS campus on Key Biscayne.

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I vividly remember many things from my visit and time with Dr. Kirtman that day, but two things particularly stood out.

The first was his answer to my question about what he thought would happen to animals in coastal places such as South Florida, Antarctica and elsewhere, as sea levels continued to rise and rise. His response was something to the effect of “well, Delaney, I’m not sure, but I think the polar bears are in trouble.” That answer led to the title of the comic book I wrote a few months later entitled “Where Did All Of The Polar Bears Go?” So props to Dr. Kirtman for planting that particular seed.

The other comment from that day that I have been thinking a lot about this week had to do with his answer about what he believed might ‘force’ the changes that our society will require to get serious about addressing our climate change crisis. He explained that he thought that certain industries such as mortgage lenders and insurance companies might lead the way. Coastal homes or businesses subject to routine flooding and rising seas would become poor risks for mortgage lenders who would fear that a property could be rendered useless, abandoned, and then have their loan defaulted. Insurers would also increasingly be reluctant to insure such locations and stop offering coverage all together at some point rather than pay claims for flood losses was his other thought.

His comment about the insurance industry came to mind again when I read an article this week from Insurance Business Magazine that quoted a New Zealand insurer as believing that our climate change crisis is the biggest challenge the insurance industry faces in its future. Here’s the quote from David Rush, Director of Vision Insurance, that captured my attention:

“The first challenge we face is climate change – dealing with the increasing frequency of natural disasters, and the on flow effects of premium increases and policy restrictions.”

Mr. Rush’s comments are, of course, logical.

More and larger devastating wildfires, as we’ve seen in California and elsewhere around the world as temperatures continue to rise.

More numerous and larger devastating hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis.

Carbon pollution in our oceans and atmospheres that have grown to historic and alarming levels.

Rising sea levels all over the planet.

Record heat waves and temperatures (with 2018 behind us, consider that four of the hottest last five years on record have just taken place).

Droughts in the American West and elsewhere in North America much less all over the world including in the Holy Lands in Israel and other places in the Middle East.

All sorts of industries are beginning to find the value of becoming sustainable and of offering sustainable products. They are doing this not only to meet increasing consumer demand, but also because it is good business for their bottom line.

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Dr. Kirtman sure was right when he predicted that our climate change crisis would soon capture the attention of industry and that some industries would likely force changes in their business, what they are and are not willing or able to do, in order to address the opportunities and challenges that they face.

To start off 2019 by reading that an insurance executive believes that climate change is the biggest challenge his industry faces is, I am sure, just the start. As the damage from our climate change crisis continues to grow, the impact to people and businesses all over the world will likewise exponentially increase and, thus, the sooner we shift our world economies to sustainable, clean energy solutions, the less costly these impacts will be for all of us.

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