Democrats and some environmentalists blasted Gov. Rick Scott on Monday after a weekend news report that Florida Department of Environmental Protection employees had been banned from using the term climate change or global warming after he took office in 2011.
The report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting appeared in the Tampa Bay Times and was referenced in The Washington Post and The Atlantic. The report said the policy was unwritten but was “distributed verbally statewide” through the department of 3,200 employees.
The report said four former employees confirmed the existence of the policy. Scott’s office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection denied there was such a policy.
In a statement issued Monday, the nonprofit Earthjustice law firm said the “anti-science rhetoric” is dangerous for low-lying Florida, which it said has more to lose from the effects of sea-level rise than any other state.
“This (is) like the governor saying that the 1969 Moon landing was faked and then telling state workers to never use the words ‘Moon landing,’” David Guest, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Florida office, said in the written statement.
The Florida Democratic Party cited the report in an email seeking donations.
“Climate change is scientific fact,” the email said, “and Rick is misleading Floridians about how dangerous this problem is! Will you help us hold him accountable?”
In response on Monday, John Tupps, deputy communications director for Scott, said only that there was no such policy.
Lauren Engel, DEP communications director, added in reference to the story, “It is simply not true.”
Scott had said before 2014 that he was not persuaded that climate change is real.
In 2014, he responded to reporters’ questions about the issue by saying he’s “not a scientist.” And after a meeting with scientists in the governor’s office, Scott said he instead is focused on solutions.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has a web page with links to documents related to sea- level rise but doesn’t refer to climate change.
Florida law (377.601) states that the human and economic costs of climate change can be reduced through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The language was added in 2008 in HB 7135, a sweeping energy bill that passed unanimously. But major portions of the legislation, such as a proposed carbon emissions credit system, have been repealed by the Legislature.
Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee