It looks like climate change may be the story of the year – now more so than ever before. 2015 comes on the heels of the hottest year on record, was incorporated into President Obama’s state of the union, has been decried as the number one threat to American security by the U.S. Navy, and has even made the agenda of Pope Francis who will address the United Nations later this year. While there is a 97.3% consensus among scientists regarding the acceptance of climate change as fact, there is a sizable opposition to the science among policy makers and the energy industry. Last week, it was revealed that Dr. Wei Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center had been privately funded by nonrenewable energy companies in order to disprove the scientific consensus, publishing several controversial papers with manipulated data to disprove the science. One might think that the tide has turned unfavorably against deniers, but many detractors are still in high places. One of them is Florida’s newly re-elected governor, Rick Scott.
Despite Florida’s vulnerability to climate change – surrounded by water on three sides, not to mention a long history of hurricane damage along the coast, afflicting Miami in particular, one of Gov. Scott’s earliest policies barred employees of the Florida State Dept. of Environmental Protection from using the phrases “global warming,” “climate change” or “sustainability” in any official documentation or communication, including e-mails, according to recent reports.
In the words of Christopher Byrd, who served as a DEP attorney from 2008 to 2013: “We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact.”
Although the DEP’s press secretary insists that the policy does not exist in writing, and the Scott Administration further emphasized that no such policy exists, a number of DEP employees did confirm this fact with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting – that they had been given instructions and warned that even the use of the phrase “climate change” in an e-mail could warrant unwanted attention.
Even if the policy does not exist, there is little evidence that the Scott Administration is acting on climate change, something that his predecessor was proactive on in the past. Scott proposed $106 million at a press conference last month to go towards averting the rise of sea levels. Although sea levels in Florida are predicted to rise as much as two feet by the year 2060, $50 million of that is going to a sewage treatment plant in the South Florida Keys, and $25 million for beach restoration – which many see as neglecting the damage that may be done to roads, homes, businesses and other infrastructure.