Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration banned Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials from using the term “climate change,” reported The Miami Herald.
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, former attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
An in-depth investigation by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) found that this unwritten policy first took effect in 2011 after Scott won his first election for governor. DEP officials were restricted from using these terms in meetings, emails, and official DEP reports. Despite the FCIR’s report and several former DEP employees’ claims, current members of Scott’s administration deny that the policy exists.
The unwritten policy to ban these terms began with Herschel Vinyard Jr.’s appointment as DEP director.
“Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary,” said Byrd. He added that 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.”
“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.”
In 2013, Byrd was released from his job at the DEP after receiving a vaguely-written release letter: “…we believe the objectives of the office will be accomplished more effectively by removing you from your position.” However, Byrd insists his firing was because he constantly protested that the DEP was not doing its job.
“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 present [sic],” said Byrd.
Gov. Scott has remained quiet on the issue of climate change. When asked about it, he usually gives vague non-answers or dodges the question completely. Last year, several of the state’s top climate scientists presented the science to Scott in an attempt to generate a dialogue among Florida’s leaders. Scott reportedly seemed uninterested and disengaged.