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Environmental group wants Super Bowl visitors to think about climate change

Have you seen the billboards? They are meant to draft on hype around the big game.
A billboard on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa displays a message about climate change in the context of upcoming Super Bowl LV. Seen on Wednesday, this is one of several billboards paid for by the Environmental Defense Fund in Florida.
A billboard on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa displays a message about climate change in the context of upcoming Super Bowl LV. Seen on Wednesday, this is one of several billboards paid for by the Environmental Defense Fund in Florida. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 21
Updated Jan. 21

The idea is that anyone looking up at the football will then be forced to think about climate change.

The Florida office of the Environmental Defense Fund, seeking to draft on hype around the big game, has arranged for at least three billboards to carry a green message in Tampa for the Super Bowl. The ads read: “94% of Floridians Agree that Climate Change is Real.” White block text is set on a football field backdrop, next to a ball. The billboard directs readers to a website with policy proposals for how Florida lawmakers could begin to address the problem.

“Football is a great unifier in Florida, and it was really important for us to get past all of the partisan rhetoric,” said Dawn Shirreffs, the organization’s director in Florida. “Because climate is actually non-partisan.”

That 94 percent number stems from a survey the organization commissioned late last year of 600 registered voters. It found six percent of voters here deny climate is changing. In the same poll, another 28 percent of people did not accept humans’ role in climate change, despite scientific evidence that fossil fuel emissions contribute to global warming.

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The “Let’s Tackle Climate Change” campaign will also include ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Shirreffs said the blitz costs about $30,000. Rotating digital billboards are planned to display the message near Dale Mabry Highway and Hillsborough Avenue, and another ad will be stationed off Interstate 275 at Westshore Boulevard.

Shirreffs noted that leaders in Tampa are expected to vote soon on setting the city’s targets for lowering emissions. At the state level, the Environmental Defense Fund is pushing policymakers to formalize Florida’s chief resilience officer position, encourage school districts to use solar energy for their buildings and devise a plan for transitioning the area to electric vehicles.

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“People tend to feel hopeless, they think it’s global in scale,” Shirreffs said. “These are very strong pieces that are actually going to be an important part of our COVID economy recovery.”

Times staff writer Douglas R. Clifford contributed to this report.