The 2018 election cycle took climate change to the governors’ offices in states across the Midwest and in Florida.
Inside Climate News reported this week on how Governor Gretchen Wilson, Michigan’s newly elected Democratic governor, is creating a new office of climate and energy. She also committed the state to the US Climate Alliance, which will push Michigan towards upholding the emissions reductions set forth in the Paris climate agreement. Perhaps most substantially, Wilson announced that the state will be formally dropping legal challenges to several federal climate and environmental policies and opposing the aging Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that crosses the Great Lakes at Mackinac Strait.
Meanwhile, newly elected governors in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota have similarly spoken up about the importance of climate change during their first few weeks in office. While there has yet been little action, this bloc of midwestern states offers significant potential for breaking through some of the environmental impasses that have long surrounded the Great Lakes.
More surprising, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has also received early praise for his focus on climate change. While DeSantis is no climate advocate, compared to former governor Rick Scott his immediate directives to help prepare Florida for the effects of sea level rise have raised hopes that Florida may no longer be a bastion of climate change denial. DeSantis has also set up an office of science that offers a new route for scientific discourse to make it into the state’s planning processes.
Altogether, these shifts in how governors are addressing climate change demonstrate how views on environmental issues are changing more broadly across the US. The early outspokenness of multiple state governors on climate change is likely a signal of more news to come on this front, and support from the state could open up opportunities for individual cities and communities to implement their own environmental initiatives. In addition, while support for climate policy from the federal government is currently weak, future environmental regulations could be implemented more effectively if individual states welcome rather than fight them.