It is one of the profound ironies of climate change that a state besieged by its effects — where coastal islands face existential threats and daily floods render major thoroughfares difficult to navigate — is also populated by powerful politicians who express deep suspicion of the relevant science.
This is Florida, the state of Sen. Marco Rubio (R), who said last year he doesn’t “believe human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate.” This is Florida, the state of former governor and Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, who in 2009 called himself a global warming “skeptic.” And this is Florida, the state of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has punted on the issue. “Well, I’m not a scientist,” he told the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo last year when asked if he was becoming less skeptical of man-made climate change.
According to a Sunday report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Scott’s aversion to discussions of man-made climate change has been brought to bear on a department charged with protecting a state that already exhibits many of the changes scientists predict will overtake other coastal regions. Officials with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as reported by writer Tristram Korten, have been restricted from using the term “climate change” or “global warming” in official correspondence.
The investigative reporting outfit called it an “unwritten policy,” which was “distributed verbally statewide” and has “affected” how one of the largest departments in the state, armed with a $1.4 billion budget and 3,200 employees, does business. “The irony is clearly apparent,” Korten told The Washington Post on Sunday night. “Florida is a peninsula with 1,200 miles of coastline, and when it comes to climate change, we’re the canary in the coalmine. And we’re relying on the state government to protect us and to plan for these changes.”
The report, published in the Miami Herald, was bolstered by the testimony of numerous former employees and e-mails from around the state. Kristina Trotta, who used to work in the DEP’s Miami office, said she was told during a 2014 meeting that she couldn’t employ terms such as “climate change” and “global warming.” “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said. “… The regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency; this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”