Florida's government may have figured out a way to beat climate change: ignore it.
A report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published Sunday details the claims by employees of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who say that they were ordered to refrain from using the terms "climate change," and "global warming" in official communications.
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ ” Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013, told FCIR. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
The unwritten policy went into effect shortly after Governor Rick Scott, a global warming skeptic, took office. With the publication of FCIR's report, several climate change believers took to Twitter to express their dismay.
While less formal, the Florida policy is reminiscent of a 2012 law passed by lawmakers in North Carolina that prohibits the state from basing coastal policies on scientific predictions regarding sea level rise. Scientists have warned that, like much of Florida's coastline, North Carolina's outer banks are at particular risk from climate change.
As January's votes on amendments to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill, and Senator James Inhofe's tossing of a snowball on the Senate floor last week have shown, the semantic aspects of the debate over global warming often serve to underscore the level of mistrust between the opposing sides of the issue.
Florida's DEP is, in part, charged with planning for how to try and combat what could be the catastrophic sea level rise due to the the very thing that its employees say they are supposed to mention by name.
“We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can’t reference it,” one former employee told FCIR.