Biden action on climate change benefits Southwest Florida

A prime example of climate change and sea level rise in Southwest Florida. Above, experimental dome homes on Cape Romano near Marco Island when they were first built on dry land in 1980.
Below, the same structures in the same location in 2018 following intensifying hurricanes and sea level rise.

Jan. 28, 2021 by David Silverberg

Southwest Florida stands to directly benefit from President Joe Biden’s latest initiatives on climate change and the environment.

Yesterday, Jan. 27, Biden issued the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad a wide-ranging and comprehensive directive organizing his administration’s response to the climate change crisis. It assigned Cabinet secretaries specific tasks to establish a government-wide climate effort and structured the executive branch to “pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

The measure immediately and directly affecting Southwest Florida and Florida in general is a pause on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters. Existing leases and permits will be subject to a “rigorous review.”

While not mentioning Florida or the Everglades specifically, the order effectively protects the region from oil exploration in environmentally sensitive federal Everglades areas and immediately off the coast, which has been a longstanding concern for local environmental activists.

In this the Biden measure joins an executive order issued by President Donald Trump in the waning days of his administration that extended an offshore drilling moratorium for 10 years to 2032. 

At the same time that the Biden order pauses fossil fuel exploration and exploitation, it aims to increase renewable energy production with “the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.”

In the broadest sense the executive order will attempt to mitigate the human impact creating climate change and build resilience to face its effects. The United States will initiate the steps required to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, take aggressive action on a wide variety of fronts and review “harmful rollbacks of standards that protect our air, water, and communities,” according to a White House statement.

Florida is uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, with urban flooding and beach erosion due to sea level rise throughout the state as well as stronger and more damaging hurricanes.

Along the Southwest Florida coast climate change is a contributor to saltwater intrusion, beach erosion and storm damage as well as hotter and drier seasons contributing to wildfires and drought.

Full text of Section 208 of the Biden Executive Order covering oil development on public lands and offshore waters:

Sec. 208.  Oil and Natural Gas Development on Public Lands and in Offshore Waters.  To the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters pending completion of a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices in light of the Secretary of the Interior’s broad stewardship responsibilities over the public lands and in offshore waters, including potential climate and other impacts associated with oil and gas activities on public lands or in offshore waters.  The Secretary of the Interior shall complete that review in consultation with the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Secretary of Energy.  In conducting this analysis, and to the extent consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of the Interior shall consider whether to adjust royalties associated with coal, oil, and gas resources extracted from public lands and offshore waters, or take other appropriate action, to account for corresponding climate costs.

Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

Liberty lives in light

© 2021 by David Silverberg