Florida’s Existential Choice For 2016 — Renewables and Climate Responses or Death by Fossil Fuels

People living in the state of Florida have a big problem — their homeland, as it is today, cannot exist for very long if we double down on fossil fuel burning as Donald Trump has proposed. And this situation, in turn, creates a big problem for Trump — he can’t win the 2016 election without Florida’s support. Trump’s vicious combination of climate change denial, anti-renewables policy stances, and attacks on immigrants whose family members may also be displaced by climate change have considerably damaged his chances of capturing the state’s 29 electoral votes. He’s now in a situation where he’s basically reliant on smoke screens and misinformation to convince the voters of Florida to commit what amounts to an electoral suicide.

us-coal-production

(U.S. coal production has been falling since Obama’s election in 2008. As a result, US carbon emissions have plateaued. The kinds of renewable energy that the American people want can continue to generate reductions in greenhouse gasses flooding the environment and give the people living in Florida a fighting chance. But that won’t happen if we elect Donald Trump as President. Image source: Vox and The Energy Information Administration.)

Trump’s Dirty Energy Pledges Would Mean Certain Devastation For Florida

About a week ago, Trump pledged to, in effect, zero out all spending on renewable energy and climate change related science while pushing hard for an expansion of coal, oil, and gas burning if he is elected. Meanwhile, Trump’s energy team is little more than a covey of climate change deniers hand picked directly from the fossil fuel industry. Trump has pledged to kill the EPA, to roll back Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and to drop out of U.S. emissions reductions pledges to the Paris Climate Summit (COP 21).

If you were looking for an example of a perfect storm of the absolute worst climate change and renewable energy related policies, policies that were guaranteed to put the world back on a track toward a devastating business as usual carbon emission — then Trump fits the bill. And to large parts of Florida, Trump’s policy pledges are starting to look a lot like a promise to inflict climate Armageddon on the low-lying state.

(This year, surface melt was observed for the first time in East Antarctica. This new observation points to increased risk of glacial melt from a region that is capable of dramatically raising global sea levels. The people living in low-lying Florida are becoming more and more concerned. And they should be. Video source: Climate State.)

Miami-Dade County sits on the front lines of this rising climate crisis. Already, the city has pledged 400 million dollars to raise streets and upgrade the city’s drainage system. Why? The oceans in Miami have now risen to the point that tides frequently disrupt transportation, flood neighborhoods, and swamp businesses. These upgrades may buy Miami a decade or two or three. But there’s absolutely no way Miami can survive for any longer than this if Trump commits to his policy choices as-is. Even the rosiest rational predictions for sea level rise by the end of this Century put Miami mostly under water well before the year 2100 under the kinds of emission scenarios that a Trump Presidency would commit us to.

Further up the coast, Jacksonville is still reeling from damages inflicted by Hurricane Matthew — a storm made worse both by the record hot Atlantic Ocean and by the added effect sea level rise had on the height of its wind-driven surge of flooding water. Like Miami, Jacksonville is starting to feel the effects of sea level rise. And its likelihood for continued existence this Century would be quite low if Trump’s fossil fuel burning policies were enacted. The story is much the same for pretty much all of Florida’s coastal cities as well as the southern tip of Florida stretching on north to the Everglades. Sea level rise is an existential threat to these regions now. One that will be made far worse if we continue to burn the fossil fuels that Trump is committed to.

Trump Seeks to Kill Renewables While Amendment 1 Attempts to Stymie Solar

Even as Trump is moving to crush renewable energy progress and responses to climate change at the federal level, hurting Florida’s chances of facing down climate threats, the fossil fuel industry and a number of aligned utilities are attempting to stymie solar energy development across the state. Like much of America, residents within Florida are attracted by renewable energy. In fact, a recent poll showed that four out of five voters supported increasing levels of renewable energy development. Home and business owners alike want access to new, clean, independent energy choices. People rightly concerned about the impacts of climate change want more clean energy.

clean-energy-costs

(As the effects of climate change worsened, clean energy costs have been falling. Now costs are so low that financial benefits to individual energy users abound. Fossil fuel industry is acting in increasingly aggressive ways to stifle access by using laws to prevent people from using clean energy sources. Trump is fighting to help these corporations prevent you and your family members from taking advantage of the multiple benefits clean energy provides. Image source: The Whitehouse.)

Since renewable energy is so popular among voters, and even among republicans, fossil fuel special interests often resort to deceptive tactics in order to keep people captive to harmful energy consumption. And this election, utilities have attempted to protect their monopoly power interests by forcing anti-solar Amendment 1 on the state. Amendment 1 aims to open a loop-hole for utilities to charge independent renewable power generators exorbitant fees and to suppress the rate of solar adoption in the state. Amendment 1’s language has been called deceitful by the Union of Concerned Scientists. It’s a proposal that has been put forward by a collection of fossil fuel special interests including Exxon Mobile, Duke Power, The Koch Brothers, Florida Power and Light and others. And if the Amendment passes, it will help to lock Florida in a fossil fueled climate change nightmare. One that is, even now, starting to nibble away at the vital cities that enable the state to function.

Yuge Wave of Climate/Renewable Energy Voters?

With both the future existence of Florida’s cities and access to renewable energy under threat, voters in Florida are turning out like never before. Nationalized Hispanic and Caribbean immigrants whose families may also be forced to seek refuge in the U.S. due to climate change are voting in droves. And the people of the increasingly swamped Miami Dade County are flooding the polls. There, fully 55 percent of registered voters had cast a ballot before election day.

The record turnout in places like Miami-Dade helped bouy the Florida early vote to 6.4 million — more than the total post election day count for the year 2000. This large turnout has come as registered democratic voters lead republicans by 92,000 coming into election day. But first and second generation citizens may well be generating even more of a democratic edge. According to Vice, 86.9 percent more Latinos voted early than during 2012. And a good portion of that 455,000 total are registered as independents and even republicans. Meanwhile, there is some indication that well less than 90 percent of republicans are voting for Trump.

While Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may have helped to generate some of this shift, it is likely that rising climate and energy concerns are also affecting the Florida vote. A poll from earlier this year found that concerns about climate change from Florida residents was on the rise. Fully 81.3 percent of Florida peninsular residents expressed moderate to serious concern about climate change as an issue. And though debate moderators and their mainstream media sponsors failed to raise the critical issues of climate change and renewable energy in the televised match-ups between Clinton and Trump, Clinton frequently harangued Trump for his noted extreme degree of climate change denial. Furthermore, Trump’s own statements and policy choices have produced enough ripples in the media to generate a general understanding that Trump is fighting against popular advances in renewable energy while stifling responses to climate change in a state where people are becoming increasingly aware that they’re under the gun. Together, these underlying political forces are likely to sap voters away from Trump in a state he must win to secure the 2016 election.

Let’s hope that happens. The future of Florida and so many other important things hangs in the balance.

Links:

Vox

The Energy Information Administration

Trump to Zero Out Clean Energy Funding

Climate State

U.S. Voters Want Renewable Energy

The Whitehouse

Four Reasons to Vote No on Anti-Solar Amendment 1

Florida Early Vote Beats Entire 2000 Turnout

Floridians are More Concerned About Climate Change

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Standing in Line for Hours to Vote on Election Day? Republican Voter Suppression Most Likely to Blame.

(North Miami, FL on Election Day. Photo credit: Eric Jotkoff.)

In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott cut early voting days from 12 to 8. He also produced a ridiculously long and complex ballot that, by many accounts, takes as long as 12 minutes to fill out. The result of this restricting access to polling places and complex ballot combined has been enormously long lines in Florida, requiring voters to wait as many as 8 hours to exercise their democratic and human rights. The fact that the longest lines are forming in heavily Hispanic and minority areas illustrates exactly which groups Scott has targeted for suppression.

In Pennsylvania, a restrictive new voter ID law was passed by a Republican legislature. Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader, famously said of the new restrictions: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” These voter ID laws target students, minorities, and the elderly, since these groups tend to lack the credentials required to acquire the new identifications needed to cast a ballot. The result is suppressed turnout among these groups. However, courts have also suspended the Pennsylvania law after strong blow-back.

In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted fought to restrict early voting and to force through his own restrictive voter ID laws. But his efforts were blunted by courts who rolled back many of the new restrictions. Now Husted is ginning up new ways to manipulate Ohio’s vote by creating rules and technicalities that allow him to toss out provisional ballots or deny people registration. New rules put in place by Husted, just this weekend, make it possible that tens of thousands of Ohio voters may be disenfranchised.

And in Colorado, Republican Secretary of State Ed Gillespie, has tossed out thousands of voter registrations by misinforming voters of registration requirements and times, through computer ‘glitches’ that have resulted in thousands dumped from voter rolls, and through direct challenges to voters in an effort to remove their right to vote.

In total, Republicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in 30 states.

Combined, these restrictive actions reveal a nation-wide effort on the part of Republicans to suppress the vote. They utilize bureaucratic red tape, cheap tricks, and authoritarian use of government to restrict access to polls and dump voters who oppose their political views. This active usurping of democracy couldn’t be more cynical and heinous. More moderate and honorable republicans have been horrified by the efforts of their, less scrupulous, peers. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called the voter suppression led by Rick Scott ‘inexcusable’ and compared it to similar efforts in ‘third world countries.’ (See more on Whitman’s outrage at Rick Scott here.)

Given this massive effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, it is absolutely imperative that people do not become cynical. It makes it even more important for people to endure the long lines, the hardship, and to challenge efforts to suppress their vote at every opportunity. These actions could include standing in long lines to vote, directly challenging election officials who are attempting to remove your registration or invalidate your ballot, reporting these attempts to media, and filing civil liberties violations with the ACLU and other legal bodies to seek restitution for abuses against you. In addition, here is a number to directly contact the US Department of Justice should you witness any voting irregularities or illegal activity: 1-800-253-3931.

All that said, Jon Husted, Ed Gillespie, and Governor Rick Scott should all be tried for their illegal and immoral efforts to violate the civil liberties of American citizens, to undermine democracy, and to erode the public authority defined by the Voting Rights Act. Such wanton voter suppression should not be coddled and we risk moral hazard if we do not pursue all legal means to hold accountable those who have willfully and maliciously attempted to use government as an implement for limiting the democratic voice of the American people.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19320

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/11/05/roundup-voter-irregularities/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/christine-todd-whitman_n_2076800.html

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/06/voter-suppression-targeting-t.html

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