Florida governor Scott denies banning phrase ‘climate change’

Rick Scott says claims climate was censored are “not true” but declines to expand on his views on causes of global warming

(Pic: Gadge Skidmore/Flickr)

(Pic: Gadge Skidmore/Flickr)

By Ed King

Florida’s governor Rick Scott has denied reports he banned employees of the state’s environment agency using the terms “climate change” and “global warming”.

“It’s not true”, Scott said on Monday reports the Politico website, which added he refused to say if he felt rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions were a problem.

“Let’s look at what we’ve accomplished: We’ve had significant investments in beach re-nourishment, with flood mitigation,” he said, referring to other environmental efforts under his tenure.

Scott’s attitude to climate change came under scrutiny at the weekend after a report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which said employees were not allowed to mention climate in communications.

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’ ” Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the environment department from 2008-2013 told the FCIR.

“That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

Another employee, Kristina Trotta, said this policy was still in operation in 2014. “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” she said.

David Hastings, a marine science professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, told Reuters the censorship was “embarrassing” and “worrying”.

“To have this authoritarian word control is very Orwellian, a page right out of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’” he said, referring to George Orwell’s seminal text on a state which controls people’s thoughts.

Scott, a Republican, is on record in 2010 saying he was “not convinced” about the causes of climate change.

During last year’s mid-terms he said he could not comment on links between greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures because he was not a scientist, a tactic used by many Republican candidates.

Links between coastal erosion, rising sea levels and climate change are a live issue in Florida, given the increased threat many communities are facing from storm surges and sea damage.

Miami is among a series of East Coast cities expected to face a huge increase in flood damage by 2050, according to a report from US scientists, published in October 2014.

Researchers also warn that NASA space operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, are already being affected by rising sea levels.

And according to the US National Climate Assessment, an estimated 37,500 acres of farmland in Florida could be at risk from rising sea levels by 2100.

“Ecosystems of the Southeast and Caribbean are exposed to and at risk from sea level rise, especially tidal marshes and swamps. Some tidal freshwater forests are already retreating, while mangrove forests (adapted to coastal conditions) are expanding landward,” it says.

Read more on: Blog | US