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Term 'Climate Change' Banned in Florida, Report Says

Mar 09, 2015 01:32 PM EDT

In a surprising announcement, the terms "climate change" and "global warming" have been banned from the vocabulary (i.e. reports, emails) of officials working at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), according to a report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR).

Four former DEP employees told the FCIR that the policy was unwritten but verbally distributed across the state in 2011, when Republican governor Rick Scott appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the DEP's director (who has since resigned).

"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."

This policy does not just affect day-to-day conversations, but has reportedly impacted reports, educational efforts and public policy in the department - a sector that has about 3,200 employees and a $1.4 billion budget.

Despite the wealth of scientific data that says otherwise, Gov. Scott, who won a second term in November, doesn't believe that climate change is caused by human activity - such as the burning of fossil fuels.

Interestingly, out of the entire United States, Florida is the most susceptible to the effects of global warming, scientists says. Sea-level rise alone - which is currently and it's picking up speed - threatens 30 percent of the state's beaches over the next 85 years.

But rising seas and month-long floods aren't the only threats Florida has to worry about. As harmful greenhouse gases are pumped into the Earth's atmosphere, the oceans are absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2). This causes a chemical reaction that makes seawater more acidic - a process called ocean acidification. This isn't just harmful to various marine life, but to US coastal communities as well that depend on the fishing industry. (Scroll to read on...)

It should be noted that despite the warning of possible catastrophic sea-level rise, DEP officials were ordered to use the phrase "nuisance flooding" instead, according to Kristina Trotta, a former DEP employee.

Interestingly, a spokeswoman for Scott told the FCIR that there was no such policy, and DEP press secretary Tiffany Cowie said the same.

However, former DEP consultants and volunteers, as well as FCIR records, say otherwise.

"We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a 'true fact,'" Trotta said.

"We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can't reference it," another unidentified former employee added.

It seems that everyone but Scott is willing to face the music that climate change and global warming are real. In 2013, greenhouse gas levels hit a record high, while summer 2014 saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded.

Even the US Senate recently announced that "climate change is real." Unfortunately, officials did not agree on the topic of man-made climate change.

While this fact may seem to bolster Scott's argument, it still doesn't diminish the fact that the majority of scientists agree that man-made climate change is real, and it's happening. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in January even said climate change will cause irreversible impacts on both the environment and world economies if drastic efforts are not made immediately.

Scott has openly admitted that he is "not a scientist," and his lack of scientific fact may spell trouble for Florida state, because if officials can't talk about climate change, then they cannot prepare for it.

"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 present," Byrd concluded.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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