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Ben Diamond bill seeks climate change research, resiliency program

HB 1369 calls for the creation of an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection.

Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond wants Florida to start assessing and preparing for impacts of climate change.

Diamond, of St. Petersburg, has filed House Bill 1369 aiming to establish a comprehensive research program and resiliency plan for the state, assessing and preparing for climate change effects on Florida’s environment, agricultural production, energy, transportation infrastructure, public health, disaster preparedness, economic growth and other factors.

HB 1369 calls for the creation of an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection. The bill also calls for updated plans to be delivered to the Governor and Florida Legislature once every four years.

“As a peninsula with thousands of miles of coastline, Florida is uniquely exposed to the risks of climate change,” Diamond stated in a news release announcing the bill. “In Pinellas County we are already seeing its effects. I am very concerned about flooding in our neighborhoods, access for our residents to affordable flood insurance and homeowners’ insurance, and the fact that hurricanes are getting stronger. We need a statewide resiliency plan to address these issues.”

Diamond cited a recent study by the Brookings Institution that reported that the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area is expected to bear the second-highest climate-related costs in the nation, and Lakeland-Winter Haven is first. In fact, the report, which projected out economic costs of climate change through the end of the century, had Florida cities holding eight of the ten worst positions in America.

The bill calls for the Florida Climate and Resiliency Research Program to study and determine the immediate situation and to project out climate trends and impacts for 25 and 100 years out. The bill also calls for the office to assess the spending and costs expected for

– Upgrading septic and sewage infrastructure affected by rising water tables;

– Improving drinking water treatment infrastructure to protect against frequent downpours and chronic flooding;

– Increasing public health response to tropical disease and vector-borne epidemics;

– Implementing energy resiliency technologies to support essential healthcare and assisted living facilities, emergency response centers anc community shelters; and

– Addressing the affordable housing crisis, especially as displacement causes “climate gentrification” of low-income communities.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the following regarding Diamond’s bill:

“Many thanks to Rep. Ben Diamond for filing House Bill 1369. Following the lead of what we are doing here in the Sunshine City, and more recently, the Tampa Bay region, HB 1369 will prepare our state to be more resilient in the face of climate change. A resilient city, and a resilient state, is one that has adapted and mitigated for serious climate impacts like sea level rise and extreme weather. It is long past time for our state leaders to take action on climate change and sea level rise. I want to thank Rep. Diamond again for his leadership on this issue, and look forward to working with him on this and many other issues facing our constituents in St. Petersburg.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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