To properly address the threat of climate change, Florida Republican lawmakers — who've controlled the Legislature for two decades — will have to take their heads out of the sand.
There are signs that Florida Legislature may finally ready to discuss the effects of climate change.
Our state's own climate scientists and local governments have made it clear that taking substantive action addressing the effects of climate change and global warming must be a priority.
And it appears the state Republican leadership lags behind their constituents. According to a statewide survey released by Florida Atlantic University last week, more than two-thirds of Floridians say that climate change has them concerned about the well-being of future generations in Florida and do not feel government is doing enough to address its impacts.
To properly respond, however, Republican lawmakers — who've controlled the Legislature for two decades — will have to take their heads out of the sand.
But now comes indications that posture may be changing, amid a renewed push from Democrats and a generational change among Republicans.
"We lost a decade," said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotossassa, during a Committee on Infrastructure and Security hearing last month.
Lee acknowledged a "paradigm shift" that has given way to new political realities. "There's a younger generation of conservatives in this state that aren't as much in denial."
Indeed, according to the FAU poll, younger Floridians ages 18-49 are more likely to concur with the scientific consensus on climate change and its attribution to human activities (60 percent) than those ages 50-64 and 65 and over (51 and 52 percent, respectively).
And of course, Gov. Ron DeSantis this summer hired Julia Nesheiwat as the state's first chief resilience officer to coordinate efforts with local governments on addressing climate issues.
Even Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, gave a nod to addressing coastal resiliency in the upcoming legislative session. "There are things we should look at with regard to hardening our infrastructure," he told the Post Editorial Board on Monday, "beyond just building up sea walls in every community."
But climate activists like state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, are right that talk doesn't equate to action. The freshman lawmaker has filed House Bill 97 that addresses climate change by setting a goal of Florida fully using renewable energy by 2050. A companion bill (SB 256) has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami.
While they have the backing of Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, who has made a top priority reinvigorating her department's long-dormant Office of Energy to help address climate, what Eskamani and Rodriguez really need are Republican co-sponsors on their bills.
"That would go a long way toward at least getting a (committee) hearing," Eskamani said. She added that she is still "hopeful" despite current House Speaker Jose Oliva's reticence on addressing the climate change issue -- although the Hialeah Republican's district is in climate-challenged Miami-Dade County.
In the Senate, we expect that Lee, with Galvano's charge, will at least allow discourse.
"I just feel it's a duty we owe to future generations to have at least planned for (climate change) to some extent," he told the Herald. "What can we do in this environment? I don't know. But we have to push that envelope."
We agree. But this shouldn't even be a partisan issue.
It's time for our state's Republican lawmakers to push past talk already. It's time for action.