Florida voters want pro-climate legislators
By Roxana Ruiz
There is no doubt that the environment and climate change play essential roles in the political discourse today. Countless protests and demonstrations from older and younger voters alike have emphasized the need for legislators to address climate change. As more young people turn out to vote, candidates for the 2020 elections will need to show voters that they are ready to take real action against climate change if they want a seat in Congress.
Young Americans want to see clean energy strategies and are cognizant of the harm that is coming if we do not combat climate change. A poll conducted by The American Conservation Coalition and Conservative Energy Network found that 79% of millennials believed that candidates who support renewable energy care more about their families and communities. Presidential candidates who wish to gain their votes, especially those in swing states, must demonstrate their commitment to fighting climate change. As young voters like myself head to the polls, we will not stick with party lines when it comes to the environment. We no longer see it as an issue of party, but a matter of policy.
One of the states to look out for is Florida. With the number of environmental issues affecting the state, voters are clear in their commitment to elect leaders who will make the environment a priority and handle the effects of climate change. The high frequency of hurricanes, tropical storms, and heavy rain mean that individuals living in coastal areas face severe flooding, potential water contamination, and economic loss.
One of the at-risk areas is Miami-Dade, which has experienced severe flooding in the past month and is at risk for salt water intrusion. Meanwhile, water quality issues have caused economic losses for small businesses across Florida’s Lee County and other coastal areas. Surrounding the coasts of Florida is the blue-green algae and red tide created by nutrient-filled freshwater releases. In a damage assessment survey conducted by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, respondents reported approximately $130.6 million worth in damages in 2018. These issues, in addition to the contamination of the Everglades and wildlife preservation, have caught the attention of Florida voters like me.
The current Governor, Republican Ron DeSantis, ran on a strong environmental platform. DeSantis ran on a platform that promised restoration of the Everglades, bans on fracking and offshore drilling, and centralizing water quality oversight. Groups like the Everglades Trust endorsed him and his campaign for governor. Such strong actions by a Republican governor demonstrates that members of both parties are acknowledging an essential part of any political platform is strong climate change and environmental policies that appeal to individuals and stakeholder groups.
A number of other legislators have aligned their agendas with pro-environmental sentiments sweeping both the state, and the rest of the county. Republican Carlos Curbelo, a former Congressman from Florida’s 26th District, has demonstrated a commitment to addressing climate change. Florida Congressmen Matt Gaetz and Francis Rooney have also contributed by introducing The Green Real Deal, a resolution presents market-driven solutions to climate change.
Despite the new wave of environmentalism within the Florida GOP, legislators will need to continue to work for broad, innovative solutions. We know that the effects of climate change are being felt more frequently, and there is no more time to waste. Voters want candidates who understand that a problem/challenge as impactful as climate change requires realistic solutions. We will not be looking for simple rhetoric, but meaningful actions that protect the wellbeing of countless individuals.
Those seeking a place of leadership must show Florida voters that they will fight for the health of the state and its people. Millennials and the younger generations of voters will soon become the majority, and they are looking for candidates who offer pragmatic solutions to climate change. Whether the candidate earns a seat in Congress or not will depend on their attitude towards climate change.
Roxana Ruiz is a student at FGCU and worked with the American Conservation Coalition on this opinion piece.