Florida’s War on Words 'Climate Change' Will Doom The Sunshine State

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Officials in the state of Florida are finally taking action against climate change. They have declared war on global warming. They are taking a firm stand and making bold actions to finally end the threat of climate change.

But before you get too excited, we aren’t talking about the climate change that threatens our coastlines, water supplies, or agriculture. We’re talking about the actual language used to describe these events.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is no longer allowed to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in official correspondence. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) spoke with former DEP officials who told the agency that the department was forbidden from using those terms when any official communication from the agency. They were also not allowed to use the word “sustainability,” according to the FCIR.

The FCIR explains:

This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP’s director, according to former DEP employees. Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, has repeatedly said he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Vinyard has since resigned. Neither he nor his successor, Scott Steverson, would comment for this report.

The FCIR also quoted one former DEP official as saying, “Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary…Beware of the words global warming, climate change and sea-level rise, and advised us not to use those words in particular.”

The language shift was a direct result of the election of Rick Scott as governor and his appointments to the DEP. Prior to Scott taking office, under then-Governor Charlie Crist, the terms “global warming” and “climate change” were cited frequently in government reports.

Given all of the evidence we have on the beliefs of Florida politicians, this is not surprising news.

Republican Governor Rick Scott refused to meet with climate scientists during his re-election campaign, but after the public grew angry about his refusal to even hear from scientists, he recanted and spent about 30 minutes with scientists who said that the governor appeared wholly disinterested in anything they had to say. 

Florida is also the home of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who has made it clear that he is “not a scientist,” but that he doesn’t believe what actual scientists are saying about climate change anyway.

The state of Florida is considered ground zero for climate change in the United States. The state’s coasts are the most susceptible to sea level rise, with major cities like Miami and South Beach predicted to be almost completely underwater by the year 2100.

The Republican-controlled government in Florida is going beyond ignoring the problem, and they are actively trying to convince themselves that climate change is not happening.

The banning of these phrases that are now a common part of the American lexicon is a new low, even for climate change deniers.

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Alternet, and The Progressive Magazine. He has worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Papantonio, and Sam Seder since August 2004, and is currently the co-host and producer of the program. He also currently serves as the co-host of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV, a daily program airing nightly at 8:30pm eastern. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

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