At Florida’s Mad Tea Party , You Can’t Say “Climate Change”

March 9, 2015

In  my “South Florida Sea Level Rise” video of a few months ago, Dr. Jim White noted that, even as rising ocean water sloshes up around South Floridian’s ankles, state government scientists and regulators can’t say “Climate Change”, or even “Sea Level rise”.    In case you wondered about that, read on.

Tampa Bay Times:

DEP officials have been ordered not to use the terms “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.

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ ” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors.”

Kristina Trotta, a former DEP employee 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.

This unwritten policy went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. to lead the approximately 3,200-employee agency, with a budget of $1.4 billion, according to former DEP employees. Vinyard resigned in November. Neither he nor his successor, Scott Steverson, would comment for this report.

“DEP does not have a policy on this,” Tiffany Cowie, department press secretary, wrote in an email.

Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante wrote in an email: “There’s no policy on this.”

But former DEP employees from offices around the state say the order was well known.

“It’s an indication that the political leadership is not willing to address these issues and face the music when it comes to the challenges that climate change presents,” Byrd said.

Since 2010, Scott, who is in his second term, has repeatedly expressed doubt that climate change is occurring. In 2014 he said he was “not a scientist,” when asked about the issue. This prompted a group of scientists to request a meeting.

“We had our 20 to 21 minutes, and he said thank you,” recalled geologist and University of Miami professor Harold Wanless, who was at the meeting. “There were no questions of substance.”

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:

One former DEP employee who worked in Tallahassee during Scott’s first term in office, and asked not to be identified because of an ongoing business relationship with the department, said staffers were warned that using the terms in reports would bring unwanted attention to their projects.

“We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can’t reference it,” the former employee said.

Former DEP attorney Byrd said it was clear to him this was more than just semantics.

“It’s an indication that the political leadership in the state of Florida is not willing to address these issues and face the music when it comes to the challenges that climate change presents,” Byrd said.

“We were instructed by our regional administrator that we were no longer allowed to use the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ or even ‘sea-level rise,’ ” said Trotta. “Sea-level rise was to be referred to as ‘nuisance flooding.’ ”

When staff protested, Trotta said, “the regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency and this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”

The order pained her, said Trotta, who has a master’s degree in marine biology, because she believes climate change is an imminent threat to Florida.

Walczak declined to comment citing DEP policy.

While state officials are still not using the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming,’ any prohibition of the term “sea-level rise” seems to have ended. In a February press conference, Scott unveiled $106 million in his proposed budget to deal with the effects of rising oceans. But $50 million of that is for a sewage plant in the Keys, and $25 million is for beach restoration, which critics say is hardly a comprehensive plan to protect homes, roads and infrastructure.

Wanless, the University of Miami professor, said the state government needs to acknowledge climate change as settled science and as a threat to people and property in Florida.

“You have to start real planning, and I’ve seen absolutely none of that from the current governor,” he said.

In Florida it will be hard to plan for climate change, he said, if officials can’t talk about climate change.

“It’s beyond ludicrous to deny using the term climate change,” Wanless said. “It’s criminal at this point.”

 

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13 Responses to “At Florida’s Mad Tea Party , You Can’t Say “Climate Change””


  1. People are laying this at the doorstep of Governor Rick Scott. But Scott has never been shy about stating his opinions about this, and the people of the Sunshine State have pulled the lever for him twice. So you can say that either 49% of Floridians don’t believe in Global Warming or 49% of Floridians don’t think rising ocean levels are important for a state which has all its major cities sitting only a handful of feet above sea level.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Considering the demographics, is it possible that the advanced age of so many Floridians means that there is a high level of senility-dementia-confusion among the voters, and that’s a big factor in Scott”s “success”?

      And don’t forget that the nasty winter weather up north (that is NOT caused by AGW—-ask anyone who is not a scientist) is driving even more of the old and “confused” to seek warmer climes, where they are allowed to drive and vote long after they are capable of either.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    I love the term “nuisance flooding”. Is that anything like a nuisance fatal heart attack? Or a nuisance plane crash in which there were no survivors? LOL

    I hate to wish ill on the folks in FL (or NC, the state that has passed laws forbidding sea level rise), but they need to get slapped in the face with some “nuisance” to wake them up.

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    If sea level rise proves bad enough, the rest of us are just going to have to disavow the use of the word ‘Florida’.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      No problemo! In keeping with the Spanish origins of “Florida” we can rename it “Principalmente Bajo el Agua”, (“mostly under water”) abbreviated PB, which is appropriate for the lead in the heads and asses of the Florida politicians. We might even be able to save some paper in the zip code directory as well—won’t need one for Miami.


  4. “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said.

    I detest the phrase, “true fact”. It either is or is not a fact, and that’s a fact. Are there untrue facts? No. They are untruths, or lies. They are not facts. Facts are check-able, verifiable, and by nature, true. Grrrr…..

  5. andrewfez Says:

    But you can still say That Which Shall Not Be Named or The Great Black Swan, can’t you?

    • uknowispeaksense Says:

      voldemort

      • andrewfez Says:

        I thought it would be fun to hear someone at DEP do press statement using ‘That which shalln’t be named’ as a substitute for climate change. I think it might spook a few of the flagrantly religious…

        Or maybe in a newspaper article: Article 1: ‘Study Shows US Now a Corporate Oligarchy’…
        Article 2: ‘That Which Shall Not Be Named Projected to Weight Down FL Economy in the Long Run’…

      • andrewfez Says:

        I finally got the connection – he looks like Voldemort. Makes ‘that which shall not be named’ even better.

  6. redskylite Says:

    This practice is not limited to Florida only (see ThinkProgress), if this (AGW/Climate Change) was a story written by H.G Wells it would be a best seller, rated on par with the War of The Worlds, and yet it is still hardly talked about.

    Time to accelerate before it is far too late ……………………at least we should expect that local governance are acting on our behalf.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/03/09/3631465/not-just-florida-censoring-climate-change-talk/

  7. dumboldguy Says:

    Speaking of “Mad Tea Parties”, here’s a reminder of the real thing.

    In Florida, you have one Election day a year, and that results in 364 “unbirthdays” where the March Hare and the Mad Hatter (Scott and Inhofe?) get to run wild and screw up the world for everyone else.


  8. […] and textbooks. It was a famous joke, a few years ago, when the Republican Governor of Florida forbade use of the phrase “Climate Change” for state employees, even those whose jobs involved dealing with the consequences of said […]


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