Opinion I Editorial: Vote in Florida Senate kindles hope for state leadership on sea-level rise
Every journey of a thousand miles, the adage goes, begins with a single step. Last week, a state Senate committee took a small step toward protecting our region against the devastation that can be foreseen as the sea keeps rising.
Voting 5-0, Republicans and Democrats on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee together passed Senate Bill 78, which would require that state-funded infrastructure projects near the coast be preceded by a sea-level impact studies.
Coming the same week that thousands of young people across the state, nation and globe skipped school to demand action to combat the projected changes in climate that threaten their generation’s future, the unanimous vote by the panel in Tallahassee was a breakthrough.
After years of turning a blind eye to the growing prospect of devastating losses, the Legislature is beginning to concede to reality: Sea level rise is happening; it will worsen; and Florida must adjust.
SB 78 addresses one obvious adjustment: From now on, whenever we construct public buildings, roads or bridges, we should be factoring in the structures’ ability to withstand the heavier flooding that we know to expect. Doing this will help keep repair, replacement and insurance costs to a minimum. And by setting statewide standards for making structures resilient, we’ll give the insurance industry and Wall Street more confidence that coastal buildings are worth investing in over 20 or 30 years.
The bill is sponsored by state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, a Democrat from a king tide-prone section of Miami, who thinks this issue is so urgent that every day during session he wears black rain boots with white letters reading: #ActOnClimate.
“Passing bills like this sends an economic signal at an important time,” Rodriquez said after the bill crossed its first hurdle, “and I’m confident that our Legislature is ready to lead.”
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