Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has barred the officials from using terms like ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ and ‘sustainability.’ That’s pretty ironic considering Florida is already besieged by the effects of climate change. Coastal islands in the region are facing existential threats. Scientists have warned that water levels in the region could rise by as much as two feet by 2060.
The unwritten policy goes beyond semantics
Soon after taking office, Gov Scott said there was little evidence that climate change or global warming was real. Behind the scenes, Scott’s administration has muzzled state officials, according to a new report from Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR). Officials in a department charged with protecting the state from the impact of climate change are prohibited from talking about climate change.
— Paul Rauber (@paulrauber) March 8, 2015
Florida Dep of Environmental Protection banned staff from using terms “global warming” or “climate change.” Must read http://t.co/u2XAnFW2Zh
— Al Gore (@algore) March 8, 2015
According to FCIR, officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were ordered not to use the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any official communications, reports, or emails. Former DEP employees, volunteers and consultants told FCIR that this unwritten policy goes beyond semantics. It has affected educational efforts, reports and public policy in a department that has more than 3,000 employees.
Ignore climate change, Florida’s way to deal with the issue
Christopher Byrd, who served as an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel between 2008 and 2013, told FCIR that employees were told not to use these terms. The message was communicated to Byrd and his colleagues by their superiors. The unwritten policy became effective right after Gov Scott took office. Almost every former DEP employee FCIR spoke to said they had received instructions about words to avoid.
One former DEP employee told FCIR that though they were dealing with the effects of climate change, they could not reference it. Last year, the National Climate Assessment said Miami was one of the most vulnerable U.S. cities to damage from rising sea levels. Though unwritten, Florida’s policy reminds us of a 2012 law passed by North Carolina lawmakers that prohibited the state officials from basing coastal policies on scientific predictions about climate change.