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Mitch Perry Report for 3.9.15 — Let’s not talk about climate change in Florida

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

President Obama has been lambasted by many for his administration’s refusal to address the terrorist threat around the globe as “Islamic terrorism.”

“We are not at war with Islam,” the President said last month at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism last month. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Nevertheless, critics say that the failure to specify who the U.S. and the rest of the West is at war with has deleteriously affected his strategy in combating ISIS and related terrorist groups.

That’s obviously debatable.

So now what are we to make of the published report over the weekend by Tristam Korten of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that Department of Environmental Protection officials have been ordered since 2011 not to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports?

The story says that the policy went into effect at the Department of Environmental Protection after Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vineyard Jr. as the agency’ director.

Christopher Byrd, a counsel with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he first heard about the policy at a staff meeting in 2011.

“Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary,” Byrd recalled. Morgan gave them “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.”

Added Byrd: “I did infer from this meeting that this was a new policy, that these words were to be prohibited for use from official DEP policy-making with our clients.”

Officials with the DEP and Governor Scott’s office have responded that there is no such policy in effect.

If the story is accurate it is chilling, but should we be surprised?

The issue of whether Governor Scott truly does believe there is climate change going on and affecting Florida became a story during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Scott infamously declared he’s was “not a scientist,” when asked his views on the issue, but after his Democratic rival Charlie Crist met with a group of scientists, Scott did the same in his office last August.

“We’ve spent $350 million in flood mitigation,” he told reporters in Brandon the day after he met with those scientists. “We’ve spent $100 million to protect our reefs. Charlie Crist didn’t invest a dime. We have record funding for springs. I’ve also come out with my environmental policy that’s talking about $500 million for new springs. We already have a record amount invested in springs. $500 million to focus on alternative water sources. We’ve got to continue to solve these problems.”

So does that make everyone feel better?

One of those scientists who met with the governor last year, David Hastings, a professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College, said after that meeting that “There was in fact no acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue,” from the governor, adding that Scott “did not reflect on the science, either.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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