DeSantis dismisses climate change, calling it ‘politicisation of weather’

Florida governor repeats common misconception about climate change and fierce storms

John Bowden
Washington DC
Friday 26 May 2023 19:35 BST
Who is Ron DeSantis?

Ron DeSantis began a whirlwind media tour around the launch of his 2024 presidential campaign with an interview on Fox News on Wednesday evening when the governor outlined his misconceptions about climate change.

Mr DeSantis was speaking to former congressman Trey Gowdy, a conservative Republican who himself is a climate change denier, in an interview with the conservative news network following his disastrous Twitter Spaces event minutes earlier with Elon Musk.

Gowdy began the conversation on the topic by bluntly noting that Florida had experienced “a number of hurricanes” — a statement of the profoundly obvious — before asking the governor for his views on climate change and the government’s role in addressing it.

Mr DeSantis responded by correctly noting that Florida was not experiencing an increase in the number of hurricanes making landfall, and referred to the existence of those storms as a “fact of life” in the Sunshine State. He then swerved into denialism with his next remark, however, quipping that “people said when we had [Hurricane] Ian, it was because of climate change”.

“I’ve always rejected the politicisation of the weather,” Mr DeSantis said.

The governor went on to say that he believed emissions could be reduced by encouraging innovation in the private sector, and dismissed the necessity or effectiveness of government regulations on that subject.

While the governor rightly noted that Florida is not experiencing more hurricanes making landfall as a result of climate change, the statement itself is rooted in a misunderstanding of the issue. While some advocates for addressing man-made climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions have incorrectly made that assertion, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that warming temperatures are contributing to a two-pronged trend — the frequency of hurricanes is dropping around the world, while the average intensity (judged by the number of category 3 storms or higher) is rising.

And there are other reasons for Florida, surrounded by coastline, to be concerned about warming temperatures.

“Coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century,” reads the UN panel’s report.

Mr DeSantis’s entry into the 2024 Republican field was marred by technical difficulties that delayed the beginning of his Twitter Spaces launch event; the governor’s candidacy has received heightened national attention due to his longstanding status as Donald Trump’s only competitive challenger for the GOP nomination, as judged by polling of Republican voters.

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