Soon after getting elected, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) made clear he had no use for climate science, insisting he’d seen no evidence that global warming is real. By last year, perhaps fearing a public backlash, the far-right Republican shifted his posture a bit, saying, “I’m not a scientist” when asked about the climate crisis.
Behind the scenes, however, Scott’s administration hasn’t just rejected science; it’s also also accused of muzzling state officials.
[Officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection] have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.
Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel from 2008 to 2013, told the Miami Herald, “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability.’ That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
The Scott administration insists there is no formal policy prohibiting the use of these phrases, and by all appearances, the policy is unwritten. It’s not as if state officials received an email saying, “Here are the words the Scott administration no longer wants you to say….”
But the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting nevertheless spoke to a wide variety of former employees at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – officials who worked in separate offices statewide – each of whom said they received instructions about words and phrases to avoid.
“This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011,” the article added.
This would be outrageous – and arguably scandalous – in any state, but given the threat to Florida, the Scott administration’s approach is truly indefensible.
Climate change is a major problem for Florida. Last year, the National Climate Assessment named Miami as one of the cities in the United States most vulnerable to damage from rising sea levels. A Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact paper has also warned that water in the area could rise by as much as 2 feet by the year 2060.But the state’s governor, Republican Rick Scott, has frustrated scientists by downplaying the problem.
History will not be kind.
Update: We heard from the governor’s office, and Scott asked to be quoted saying, in reference to the allegations raised by state officials, “It’s not true.”’ A spokesperson for the governor added, “There’s no policy on this,” a detail that was already included in the original report.