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Florida doctoral student forced to remove ‘climate change’ from paper on climate change

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Gov. Rick Scott is pushing back against a report on Sunday claiming an “unwritten rule” in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) banned the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official communications.

“It’s not true,” Scott said, writes the Miami Herald. “Let’s look at what we’ve accomplished. … Significant investments in beach renourishment … flood mitigation. … I’m into solutions, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

But the experience of Elizabeth Radke, as reported in The Washington Post, tells a somewhat different story.

Radke is a graduate from the University of Florida with a PhD in epidemiology. During her time at UF, she co-authored a paper on how climate change in Florida affects a marine food-borne illness called “ciguatera.” In January, the study was close to publication.

That was when Radke received an e-mail – subject “Paper Review” — from her co-author, a program coordinator with Florida’s Department of Health. Prior to publication, the study needed the go-ahead from the DoH in Tallahassee.

Sharon Watkins, who heads the state Bureau of Epidemiology, returned the 27-page paper with the words “climate change” underlined. The paper used it four times.

Scott spokesperson John Tupps, who contacted The Post after publication of the initial story, said he did not know of any policy – written or not – banning those terms at the DEP.

“Allegations and claims made in the [Florida Center for Investigative Reporting article] are not true,” Tupps told reporters. “This policy, it doesn’t exist, and it’s not true.”

Regardless, Radke was forced to delete the words “climate change” from the article on demand of Watkins.

Radke believes it was as if political posturing took precedence over science.

“I was shocked,” she told The Post. “I was shocked from a scientific standpoint but not shocked from the standpoint of we know who the governor is. … I am absolutely concerned that politics is in this, and I don’t know what their rationale is, but I am certainly concerned.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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