Filed Under:Risk Management, Weather Risk

There is no “global warming” or “climate change” in Florida

Florida's governor prefers that terms like
Florida's governor prefers that terms like "global warming" and "climate change" not be used in official communications. (Photo: Jillian Cain/Shutterstock)

When a University of Florida Ph.D. candidate used the phrase “climate change” in her epidemiology dissertation, which examined how climate change in Florida had affected ciguatera – a deadly fish-borne disease that affects the nervous system – she and her co-author were informed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that they couldn’t use the words “climate change.” They substituted “climate variation.”

It’s unofficial, of course, and Florida’s Governor Rick Scott denies it (“I’m not a scientist,” he says), but Florida’s DEP – and even the state’s Department of Health – are apparently on orders from somewhere in Florida’s capitol not to use the words “global warming” or “climate change,” and it is even questionable as to whether “sea level rise” is acceptable.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, according to the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald on March 12, 2015, said that the governor’s administration “ordered DEP employees, contractors and volunteers not to use the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ in official communications.” The Center’s investigation showed that the phrases had been used 209 times under the prior administration, but only 15 times during the first year after Rick Scott first became governor five years ago.

This is a tricky issue for Florida. In his second inaugural address in January 2015, Governor Scott invited the entire nation to move to Florida. Considering what happened in the Northeast and the Midwest over the next two months, undoubtedly many frozen Northerners would jump at the chance to take Gov. Scott up on his offer. This writer is only a part-time resident, but was a full-time Florida citizen for 13 years back in the 1960s and ‘70s. It was “old Florida” then, few highrises, lots of little retirement bungalows, and the land of the newly wed and the nearly dead. Today it is beachfront condominiums (at $1.3 million for starters plus monthly fees, taxes and flood insurance), retirement centers (“where Mama will be cared for in her waning years”), and a lot of lower-middle class housing that just keeps aging and requiring more maintenance.

Where to sink your retirement savings

Of course the Governor doesn’t want any mention of global warming; it hurts the real estate market. In early March it was already over 90 degrees in mid-Florida. With the rising sea level, all those millions spent on beachfront properties, whether homes or condos, will be continually sopping wet in the next few decades.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring drinking water. The Central Florida aquifer is being drained, and if you don’t live on the beach, you can expect big sinkholes in your back yard as the limestone over the aquifer becomes unstable. That’s already a big insurance claim issue in Florida as an ever-increasing number of new subdivisions take the place of old cattle ranches, dead or dying orange groves, and phosphate mines scattered throughout the state.

There have always been sinkholes in Florida when droughts dried out the aquifers, which can be replenished if there are hurricanes; but there haven’t been any major hurricanes in central Florida in a number of years. That’s good news for real estate agents who would love to sell you a home on the old aquifer or a beachfront condo. It’s a seller’s market now that the economy has improved, but it’s bad news for cities that get their water from wells tapped into that aquifer.

Need a pipeline?

All the fuss about a pipeline to carry Canadian sludge (tar sands oil) to Houston, while California is drying out and a major drought is predicted for the entire Southwest, makes one wonder if the pipeline ought not to run from the Northeast to the Southwest, carrying all those gallons of snowmelt each winter to irrigate the nation’s vegetable gardens in the San Joaquin and Imperial Valleys. If frozen vegetables can come east, why not send back frozen precipitation?

If the Saudis don’t raise the price of their oil, those long trains of tank cars won’t be needed. Oil fracking is less cost efficient than importing oil, and our energy needs are fickle. We don’t want nuclear, but we don’t want coal-fired electric generation either. At least these are all good insurance claim issues.

Ken Brownlee, CPCU, is a former adjuster and risk manager based in Atlanta, Ga. He now authors and edits claims-adjusting textbooks.



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