Officials in the Department of Environmental Protection in Florida, a state that’s especially affected by climate change, were told they could not use that phrase (or “global warming”) in their communications or reports.
This stunning bit of censorship was brought to light by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ ” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
Kristina Trotta, another former DEP employee who worked in Miami, said her supervisor told her not to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in a 2014 staff meeting.
“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said.
The policy was unofficial, but it went into effect a few years ago when Gov. Rick Scott — who doesn’t believe humans play a role in climate change — took office.
You can see his complete lack of interest in the issue (or his dismissal of it) in this video from August, in which he met with climate scientists over this matter:
So how did this unstated policy play out?
One example is the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council’s Annual Research Plan, put together by DEP and other state agencies. The 2009-2010 report, published the year before Scott was elected, contains 15 references to climate change, including a section titled “Research Priorities — Climate Change.”
In the 2014-15 edition of the report, climate change is only mentioned if it is in the title of a past report or conference. There is one standalone reference to the issue at the end of a sentence that sources say must have slipped by the censors. “It’s a distinct possibility,” said one former DEP employee.
You can’t even begin to solve a problem if the very mention of it gets you into trouble. Of course, no one close to Scott was willing to comment on the matter. The press secretary said the DEP didn’t “have a policy on this,” but the former DEP employees say the policy was well understood, even if it wasn’t officially in the books.
What’s appalling is that most GOP leaders will either claim this is either 1) a non-issue or 2) liberals making a big deal out of nothing. They won’t acknowledge how serious of an issue this is politically and environmentally. It’s a complete abdication of responsibility from some of the highest levels of government — and it’s not even surprising at this point.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)