According to a report made public by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting on Sunday, officials in Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection have banned the terms “global warming,” “climate change” and “sea-level rise” from being used in any documentation on communication.
Kristina Trotta, a former employee in DEP’s Miami office, as well as several other Department employees have told the media that as early as 2011 they were instructed by their regional administrator not to use under any circumstance any of the terms during their time spent at the public institution. Florida Governor Rick Scott has earned the reputation of a somewhat climate change skeptic. He is known for bluntly replying to a media question about the effects of climate change in May 2014 “I’m not a scientist”; same year he dismissed environmental scientists after only 10 minutes in what was planned to be a 30 minutes session on environmental topics. According to the FCIR report, the unwritten ban came shortly after Scott went into office in 2011.
Some may find it curious how Florida, one of the main targets of potential climate change related catastrophes among US states, has also been home to some of the officials who most stubbornly refuse to acknowledge global warming as a scientific fact. The state’s former governor and current potential Republican presidential runner Jeb Bush declared himself an environmental skeptic back in 2009. Florida Senator Marco Rubio seems to be the most radical of all. Last year he affirmed he doesn’t believe “human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate.”
The FCIR report, published in the Miami Herald on Sunday, has quickly endorsed by a number of former DEP employees. Tiffany Cowie, official spokesman for DEP, dismissed the report, claiming they do not have a policy in place banning the use of climate change-related terms. However, according to Christopher Byrd, the Office of General Counsel attorney for five years between 2008 and 2013, they “were told not to use the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability’. That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel,” underlying that although a written policy was not officially launched, the ban was clearly promoted verbally between the departments employees and encouraged by leadership. Byrd further states that the decision came shortly after the appointment of a new DEP director by the then freshly-installed governor Rick Scott.
The ban on specific terms was not only whispered on the halls of the department, but was effectively put to work, according to other reports in the press. Two of the volunteers at the Coral Reef Conservation Program in 2014 said they were advised to avoid using the term “climate change” in their presentation about the threats to the coral reefs.
In a state where the climate change perils constantly loom on the horizon, its top elected officials dodge the subject and are apparently approving measures that encourage silence on the issue. It is hard not to notice the irony in the reply the Washington Post received from DEP when they contacted them on this matter. “The Department constantly monitors changes we identify in Florida ecosystems, and works with other local and state agencies to ensure Florida’s communities and natural resources are protected,” department spokesman Dee Ann Miller said, refraining from using any of the terms that may have been subjected to the ban.
Image Source: Florida Politics
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