Guest opinion: The Biden climate change bill is a lifeline for Southwest Florida

Dr. Jennifer Jones
Special to The News-Press

Stop your knee-jerk reaction to hate anything coming from this White House and appreciate why the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed by President Joe Biden is good news for the climate crisis in Florida. The new legislation’s focus on clean energy will help your wallet, your family and the health of our environment. The growth of solar, wind and other renewable technology will put the prosperity of all of us above those of special-interest groups.

President Joe Biden signs the Democrats' landmark climate change and health care bill in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Tuesday, as from left, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., watch.

The legislation includes tax incentives that will drive down the cost to produce solar and wind energy, help homeowners upgrade their appliances and HVACs to more efficient systems, and reduce the price of electric cars. And because the legislation requires energy components to be manufactured or assembled here in the United States, this will be a boon for high-paying clean energy jobs which we need in Florida. According to a recent report, a measly 1.7% of jobs in Florida are in the clean energy sector, which puts us behind states like Maryland, Michigan and Wyoming. And we claim to be the Sunshine State?

More:Guest opinion: Supreme Court ruling on the EPA made Florida more unsafe

More:Guest opinion: Want to save Florida? Go outside

The $369 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act is a much-needed investment to address the climate crisis, position the United States as a global leader in clean energy technology, and strengthen energy security by powering our cars, houses and business with renewables made here rather than imported.

Dr. Jennifer Jones

The legislation has direct impact here in Southwest Florida: Analysis of the new Biden legislation by Princeton University found it will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions 42% below 2005 levels over the next eight years. That will help protect our beaches and mangroves, small businesses in the tourism sector and the health of our families.

Some naysayers will continue to argue against the role of humans in causing climate change. That’s to be expected: A cocktail of deliberate misinformation campaigns mixed with political tactics have willfully obstructed the need to move our communities towards clean energy, thanks to oil, gas and coal special interests. Last year alone these groups spent over $120 million lobbying to bend the system to their will. This includes anti-science and misinformation campaigns to strengthen their monopolies. We won’t fully solve the climate crisis until we solve this misinformation crisis. But that’s another story.

The science of human-caused climate change is beyond doubt. And while Florida is spending taxpayer dollars to better withstand increased flooding, storms and other impacts from climate change, we have done almost nothing to reduce dangerous and dirty emissions that are making it worse. This bill changes that. Sure, there is much more to be done in constructing our future prosperity, but the Inflation Reduction Act represents a lifeline for Florida by providing cheaper and cleaner renewable energy. It gives us the opportunity to really become The Sunshine State, politics be damned._

Jennifer Jones, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Environment & Society, part of The Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University.