The Florida Influencer Series

Environment: Florida needs to plan for growth and create science-based benchmarks


THE QUESTION: How should Florida’s elected leaders promote a science-based approach to determining state action on climate change and environmental challenges

Summary of the survey findings of 50 Influencers:

The Florida Influencers contend that the state government has failed to adequately address the increasing number of environmental problems facing the state. Seven in 10 Influencers said they were either “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with how well lawmakers have handled climate and environmental issues, while just less than 10 percent said they were “satisfied.”

The Influencers agreed that there are an abundance of climate concerns lawmakers need to tackle, but there was little consensus on what should take priority. Asked to rate the importance of seven different proposals to address the state’s environmental challenges, helping cities deal with rising sea levels narrowly came out on top, with 64 percent rating the issue as “very important.”

Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent said banning oil drilling in coastal waters was “very important,” followed by addressing nitrogen and phosphorus discharges into water (58 percent), fully funding the state’s land preservation program (48 percent), banning fracking (43 percent), increasing funding for the Department of Environmental Protection (29 percent) and taxing coal and natural gas emissions (20 percent).

The best overall approach, the Influencers said, was to put political interests aside and seek the advice of climate science experts to develop the most effective policies to protect the environment.

Florida Influencer Tiffany Troxler of FIU (right) joins other Inflencers to discuss th environment in a breakout session on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 during the Florida Priorities Summit at the University of Miami. The Florida Influencer Series, is the beginning of a conversation among leaders, decision makers, and voters to put a sharp focus on a shared vision for Florida. PATRICK FARRELL

Statement summarizing the views of the working group regarding the issue:

Florida’s environment is our business. Instead of making our challenges a burden, we have an opportunity to be entrepreneurial and use innovation and new technologies to make this an economic driver. Florida has world-class scientific talent that can be brought to bear on these challenges with new investment. That said, our conservation issues are real: climate change, sea level rise, water quality and quantity, and urban sprawl are elements that undermine our economy and our quality of life. Addressing these issues must be your top priority if you wish to see Florida and its economy flourish.

This is a nonpartisan issue. A commitment to science-based decisions is essential, but so too is a commitment to standing by science-based recommendations even when they present tough choices. To meet these challenges we will need to be self-disciplined, and hold ourselves accountable for making science-based decisions. The environment must be treated as the economic indicator that it really is. The success of Everglades Restoration, land conservation, water quality protection and climate change adaptation will be the bellwether of Florida’s economic future.

Potential solutions:

  • Science-based decisions: Create science-based benchmarks for measuring success and report outcomes in building economic, social and environmental resilience vs. no action. The environment is an economic indicator.
  • Prioritize water management and Everglades restoration: Invest in water management — improving water quality and providing storage through reservoirs and wetland restoration, and addressing nutrient sources such as septic and biosolids.
  • Core values: Expect transparency and accountability in your agencies and appointed officials to ensure that your environmental priorities are not undermined by individual decisions.
  • Growth management: Florida is going to continue to grow — how do we grow sustainably? Urban sprawl aggravates Florida’s problems. Urban density also allows land conservation (such as that provided through Florida Forever) needed to meet our environmental challenges.

What questions will the new governor and legislature need to answer to make progress on this issue:

  • What will my environmental legacy be? Will it be something anyone will remember?
  • What will Florida need 10, 20, 50 years to sustain our prosperity and quality of life? What decisions will my grandchildren be glad I made?
  • Is the state economy prepared for another environmental catastrophe? How do we make ourselves and our economy more resilient?
  • How do I best engage constituents to better understand critical issues facing the environment such as global climate change, sea level rise, water quality and more; and engage them in implementing solutions?
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