Florida “Bans” the Term Climate Change: Rick Scott and the Enemies of Science

On a crystal clear 80-degree day in January, two friends and I floated quietly through Florida Everglades National Park on a rickety canoe. With mangrove forests, meditative currents and enough wildlife to make a birdwatcher salivate, the Everglades is a mid-day nirvana.

011A1311

 

(Above) Drew paddles through the calm waters of the Everglades.

 

While shining with tranquility, the Everglades has found itself in a dangerous position. The effects of climate change have begun to cause rising sea levels in its uniquely low-elevation environment. Sea level rise is an issue that is crucially important yet slow enough to try and take preliminary action against. In other words, there is still hope if we can begin working to prevent this issue over the next few years. Too bad Rick Scott and other Florida officials have allegedly worked to remove the words “climate change” and “global warming” from government documents and other communications. 

According to an alarming report made by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR), politicians in the state may be banning the very mention of one of the most important issues plaguing its lands.

FCIR quote

Aside from sea level rises, Florida’s beautiful coral reefs are also at risk from human-induced climate change. This makes the state one of the most afflicted by a changing climate.

It is no secret that Rick Scott has been known to skirt around mentions of climate change. While not an outspoken opponent, he has shown reservations and diverted to how his administrations have dealt with floods and sea rise prevention rather than admitting to climate change itself.

Greg Allen Quote

 

The conservative stance that climate change “has not been proven by science” is fundamentally ignorant. In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2013 assessment report they gave a confidence level of over 95% that “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (Mooney). What climate change deniers are missing is the fact that science is largely based upon educated theories, not “proving facts.” In physics, the concept of gravity is only a theory, yet politicians do not prance around saying there isn’t the evidence to prove its existence. By censoring the very mention of the phrase “climate change,” Rick Scott has not only shown cowardice towards science but also a cheap way to pull back evidence contrary to his viewpoints. In other words it is the ultimate action of a manipulative, unbalanced politician.

Spokespeople for Governor Scott have denied claims that he instituted this “policy” within state organizations. In the same vein as “we cannot prove human-induced climate change” this defense is a twisting of the truth. It is technically true that there was no “policy” because the banning of “climate change” and “global warming” were internal, unspoken procedure. Thus there is no paper trail, nothing on the books and no other way to account for the issue aside from the testimony of government workers and researchers. With four former DEP workers speaking out against Scott’s unsaid policy, the accusation has a strong backing for validity.

To add to the accusers’ arguments, the FCIR analyzed the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council’s Annual Research Plan made with Scott and the previous edition made while his predecessor, Charlie Crist, was still in office. They found that Crist’s 2009-10 edition of the report had 15 references to climate change while the 2014-15 edition only had 1 (Korten).

011A1473

(Above) Travel companions Anthony and Drew look out at an ocean that is slowly rising due to global warming

What is to be done in a society where some politicians will not even allow the mention of the phenomena that are most crucial to address? Can we let them turn a blind eye, sitting back and watching an environment change in ways they refuse to admit?

First, the four former DEP workers that brought this case to light should be treated as heroes. They took a bold step to expose an alleged environmental scandal that many others let happen for years. It is unsettling that there are many other DEP employees that have been silently abiding by Scott’s measure that spits in the faces of objectivity and free speech.

Second, we need to begin taking stronger action against politicians who refuse to directly discuss or mention climate change. While someone has the legal right to deny that it is human-induced, we should not let crucial terms like “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability” vanish from government documents that are publicly accessible.

The FCIR has done incredible work here to shake up the dirty politics of climate change. Next, when things calm and the waters have again settled, we need to continue the fight to make sure those tides don’t overflow onto the Everglades’ shores.

 

RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING

In Florida, Officials Ban Term ‘Climate Change’ (FCIR)

Gov. Rick Scott’s ban on climate change term extended to other state agencies (Miami Harold)

Florida Gov. Scott Denies Banning Phrase ‘Climate Change’ (NPR)

Florida Officials ‘ban’ of the term climate change is straight out of the Bush playbook (Washington Post)

Gov. Rick Scott Won’t Talk About Climate Change at Debate, But Will Talk About Religion (Climate Progress)

Sea Level Rise in Everglades National Park (NPS)

Climate Change: Florida Coral Reef Climate Change Adaptation Project (Nature)