If Ron DeSantis replacing fellow climate-denying Republican Rick Scott as Florida governor in 2019, environmental groups hailed him as a breath of fresh air.

Red Tide Rick, as Scott became known to critics from out of state toxic algal bloomsdisappeared, and one of DeSantis’ first acts after taking office was to sign a record budget with $625 million to restore the Everglades.

He followed appointment of Florida’s first Chief Scientistraising the hope that the era “green governor” as he had no problem being recognized.

But now this Hurricane Ian, which the researchers present, has been mapped much more powerful As climate change ravages large swathes of Florida, DeSantis’ environmental credentials are once again under scrutiny. It also comes as DeSantis has risen to a position of national prominence with his sights set on a possible 2024 presidential run from the Republican Party, which is often still skeptical of the climate crisis.

There were successes, including a massive three-year land acquisition program that survives more than 113,000 hectares Florida for conservation. And in July, with an eye on tourist dollars, he vetoed the controversial water bill which analysts say threatens the restoration of the Everglades wetlands.

But in terms of the climate emergency, other measures have drawn the ire of environmental advocates, notably his actual signing of the bill last year shutting Florida off to fossil fuels prohibiting municipalities from using cleaner renewable energy sources, including wind and solar.

“Governor DeSantis has been a disappointment at best. We’ve seen a lot of rhetoric from him and his administration, a lot of talk, but very little action,” said Emily Gorman, director Florida head of the Sierra Club, which opposed the energy bill.

“Early in his administration, we heard talk of blue-green algae. We were excited about it. To date, it has been taken four of the 31 recommendations [of a taskforce he established to find solutions].

“We heard a lot of talk about sustainability, which also sounded promising. This did not happen. A lot of resources are also on sustainability came from the federal government or has been reallocated from our housing stock, literally taking dollars away from affordable housing efforts and redirecting them to bolstering their own reputation on a false promise.”

DeSantis defends his reputation, but some observers believe his evolving brand of “conservative environmentalism” is more geared toward an expected White House tilt.

“[His] initial enthusiasm for action ended up clashing with his desire to score political points among potential 2024 GOP presidential voters,” Karthik Krishnayer wrote in the New Republicunderscoring DeSantis’s growing focus on “anti-awakening” and the culture-war obsession with republicanism.

In December, during a debate on sea level rise, DeSantis refused to acknowledge the phrase “climate change” and compared the activity of global warming to “leftist things”.

He paused Wednesday when Joe Biden, who joined the Fort Myers governor to assess the damage from Hurricane Ian, said the scale of the storm was “ended discussion” on the climate crisis.

“The governor is labeling people who work on environmental issues, and especially those of us who work on climate issues, as enemies,” Gorman said.

“And if you’re serious about dealing with the existential crisis that is climate change, we need all hands on deck.”

Other environmental groups have been more supportive. The Everglades Trust, which has supported almost equally Republican and Democratic candidates in state and congressional races, supported Desantis in next month’s midterm elections, describing him as “the governor of America’s Everglades” for his restoration initiatives.

The nonpartisan Audubon Society, meanwhile, praises DeSantis, but also acknowledges that much of the progress in sustainability has happened at the local level, such as Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact union of several counties.

“Governor DeSantis has been probably the fastest we’ve seen in years to restore the Everglades. On his first day, he signed the executive order by putting his marker on the board and has been a tireless advocate, especially for appropriations for this work,” said Julie Reitmel, executive director of Audubon Florida.

“We would certainly like to see more progress. Over the past 10 years, Florida’s climate leadership has come from regional climate compacts, city and county governments recognizing that they can go further together.

“They’ve come together to identify what can be done to increase their resilience and reduce their climate footprint, and there are a lot of really good models that are ready to scale at the state level.”

Others are skeptical of DeSantis’ commitment to environmental protection.

“Conservation and sustainability will not address the root cause of climate change, which we know is our unsustainable dependence on fossil fuels,” said Brooke Ward, senior organizer for Food and Water Watch in Florida.

“His administration has pushed through preemptive action bills that prevent communities from divesting from fossil fuels, and he new gas plant approved in the Tampa Bay region, which is set to lock the area up for another 30 years of fossil fuel burning.

“Hurricane Ian went from a Category 1 to a Category 4 in just a day, caused by warm water, caused by fossil fuel burning, caused by climate change, and it has done nothing to talk about how we are trying to do everything to avoid similar storms in the future .

“This is a total denial of what needs to be done to protect a state that is literally sinking in the ocean.”