According to a report published by the Miami Herald on Sunday, officials at Florida's environmental protection agency have been banned from using the terms "climate change" and "global warming" since Republican Governor Rick Scott took office in 2011.
With much of its population living on coastline, Florida is one of the states most threatened by rising sea levels, but former employees of the state's Department of Environmental Protection say they were banned from mentioning it and related climate change topics by name. From the Miami Herald:
DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term "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.
The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.
The unwritten policy was reportedly instituted in 2011 when the then newly-elected Scott appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr.—a former Jacksonville shipyard executive—as head of the agency.
"Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary," former DEP attorney Christopher Byrd told the Herald, saying he received "a warning to beware of the words global warming, climate change and sea-level rise, and advised us not to use those words in particular."
The unofficial prohibitions resulted in a disturbing doublespeak where "sea-level rise" was referred to as "nuisance flooding" and the term "climate-driven changes" was used instead of "climate change."
According to another former DEP employee, officials who resisted the policy were told "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."
Spokespeople for both the DEP and Governor Scott have denied there is any such policy in place. Vinyard and his successor, current DEP chief Scott Steverson, declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.
[Image via AP Images]