On September 8th, 2023, The New York Times (NYT) ran an article titled “DeSantis, Leading a State Menaced by Climate Change, Shrugs Off the Threat.” If DeSantis is, in fact, shrugging off the threat of climate change, he is right to do so. Data shows that the extreme weather events that DeSantis is dealing with not historically unique or even rare, but rather they are part of normal weather during the hurricane season in Florida. In other words, recent hurricane activity in the state under DeSantis’ administration are not indicative of climate change. Also, concerning Florida sea level rise in some areas, that is due to local conditions like land subsidence and rapid water withdrawals from local aquifers, not climate change.
The NYT article opined:
Now running for president five years later, the Florida governor no longer repeats his previous view that humans affect the climate, even as scientists say that the hurricanes battering his state are being intensified by man-made global warming. Those storms include Hurricane Idalia, which killed three people this month, and last year’s catastrophic Hurricane Ian, which killed 150 Floridians.
On the 2024 campaign trail, Mr. DeSantis has promised to ramp up domestic oil and gas production and fight against mandates on the introduction of electric vehicles — the kinds of steps that could worsen the sea-level rise that is flooding coastal cities in Florida and around the world. Mr. DeSantis says he is simply being realistic about the country’s economic and national security needs.
The NYT is wrong to blame climate change for Hurricanes Idalia and Ian. Climate Realism provided data-based rebuttals to the Hurricane Ian claims here. Climate at a Glance provides a solid refutation to the false claims that climate change is increasing hurricanes overall – the data says otherwise.
Most importantly, Florida, America’s most hurricane-prone state, recently underwent its longest period in recorded history without any hurricanes. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in their AR6 report, Chapter 11, Weather and Climate Extreme Events in a Changing Climate there is no detection or attribution of a climate change signal in hurricane data.
Data shows no link between climate change and hurricanes, but more importantly, individual hurricanes are weather events, and not climate events, which further refute NYT’s claims. Weather is not climate, and the two operate on completely different timescales.
On the issue of Hurricane Idalia, the NYT noted, “Mr. Biden seemed to weigh in last weekend during a visit to Florida after Idalia. “Nobody intelligent can deny the impact of the climate crisis anymore,” he said.”
But DeSantis fired back with: “The idea that we’ve not had powerful storms until recently, that’s just not factually true,” he said, adding that Democrats were trying to “politicize the weather.”
In the conflict between data, which clearly demonstrate that hurricanes aren’t getting worse and alarming but patently false claims made by the likes of the NYT and President Biden that hurricanes are worsening, science says follow the data not assertions made in furtherance of a political agenda.
On the issue of sea-level rise, one of the most commonly cited issues about Florida is flooding in Miami. The NYT itself has posted several stories on this topic, and they all missed the main cause for the problem, which isn’t rising seas due to climate change, but land subsidence.
Much of Miami was built on reclaimed swamp land, and then built up with modern infrastructure. That extra weight causes a sinking of the land, known as subsidence, allowing seawater to seep in when the surfaces sink to near sea-level. It also means that during strong rainfall events, and hurricane storm surge, areas of Miami that have subsided don’t drain as they did years before, resulting in flooding.
This is clearly addressed in the scientific paper Land subsidence contribution to coastal flooding hazard in southeast Florida, published in Proceedings of IAHS in 2020.
Governor DeSantis seems to be better informed on the issue of climate change and Florida than either the NYT or Biden, sticking to reality, supported by what the data says, rather than responding to the clearly false claims of worsening weather and sea-level rise for the state.
In short, DeSantis is right to “shrug off” the climate hype and focus instead on the real problems facing Florida. Doing so might reduce the chances of sea water incursion and subsidence, and minimize damage done by hurricanes undoubtedly instore for the state in the future. Ending fossil fuel use in the vain quest to control the climate will do neither.