Florida Lawmakers Still Deny Climate Change

by Clarissa-Jan Lim

World leaders are set to decide on a universal, binding agreement to combat climate change at the year end's U.N. conference in Paris, but back home, there remains a stubborn number among the population who refuse to believe that humans have an effect on the climate, let alone acknowledge that global warming exists. That obstinacy was perhaps most ironically on display in a state most threatened by its effects, after the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) found that Florida officials banned using "climate change" and "global warming" in the official communications of the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Released on Sunday, the FCIR report stated that Gov. Rick Scott, long averse to discussions on climate change, disallowed the department's members from using those terms shortly after taking office in 2011 in an "unwritten policy" that was nevertheless somewhat enforced, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by Tristram Korten at the FCIR. Former attorney with the DEP's Office of General Counsel Christopher Byrd, told the investigative center:

We were told not to use the terms "climate change," "global warming" or "sustainability." That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.

Following shocked responses to the report from the environmental community, Scott told reporters Monday that it was "not true," but then declined to elaborate further. The governor said, sidestepping questions:

Let's look at what we've accomplished: We've had significant investments in beach re-nourishment, with flood mitigation.

Home to Republican lawmakers who continuously rebuff the strong scientific evidence of climate change — 2016 hopeful Jeb Bush is a self-proclaimed global warming "skeptic"; Sen. Marco Rubio said last year that he didn't believe "human activity [was] causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it"; and Scott, reportedly responsible for the ban, has time and again refused to weigh in on climate change because he was not "a scientist" — Florida, according to scientists, is the state most at risk of the dangerous and incredibly real effects of climate change.

But those at the upper political echelons simply refuse to acknowledge it as fact. In the FCIR report, Byrd said the ban 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.

Image: oporkka/Fotolia