It may have seemed surprising when, on Sunday, four former employees of Florida’s state Department of Environmental Protection said they were forbidden to use the words “climate change” and “global warming” in any official communications.
But as it turns out, the alleged practice is not unusual — at least in states with governors who do not accept the scientific validity of human-caused climate change. In fact, two states were accused of implementing a very similar practice with their environmental conservation agencies last year.
The most recent accusation came in September, when a former employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources told the Allegheny Front that she was explicitly ordered to remove references to “climate change” from the agency’s website. The orders, she said, came from members of then-Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) administration.
A few months prior to that, WRAL News revealed that The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was removing links and documents about climate change from its website. In that case the agency defended the practice, telling ThinkProgress that the state lacked “clear regulatory responsibility” to deal with global warming.
Though none of those allegations have been definitely proven to come from the governors of those states, their governors do all have two things in common: They do not publicly accept the science of human-caused climate change, and they have actively pushed policies to downplay the threat of human-caused climate change.
Take Pennsylvania’s Corbett. Before getting defeated by current Gov. Tom Wolf in his 2015 reelection bid, he was notorious for his pro-fossil fuel policies. While in office, Corbett eliminated programs to research climate impacts to the state, appointed a climate science denier to head his Environmental Protection agency, and gutted efforts to encourage renewable energy. He also often questioned whether climate change was is really a threat, characterizing it as a “subject of debate” among scientists.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has also been consistently lukewarm on the subject of climate. In an interview last year, McCrory said he feels “there has always been climate change,” a common dodge to avoid saying that humans cause it with greenhouse gas emissions. He joined eight other governors to ask President Obama to delay proposed rules to reduce carbon pollution, and supports opening up North Carolina’s coastline to drilling.
It makes sense, then, that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) state would join the club of states that have allegedly censored mention of climate change. Scott started his campaign for Governor in 2010 by saying he “has not been convinced” about global warming, and hasn’t since changed his tune. Now, he avoids the question by stating “I’m not a scientist,” the now-standard dodge loved among some of Congress’ most well-known conservatives.
The only thing that makes Scott’s case at least little different than his colleagues’ in North Carolina and Pennsylvania is Florida’s unique vulnerability to climate change. Yes, North Carolina is losing coastline and Pennsylvania is projected to see more violent storms, but parts of Florida are literally in danger of being submerged due to sea level rise. Miami faces a unique risk, because the city is built on top of porous limestone, which according to the New York Times “is already allowing the rising seas to soak into the city’s foundation, bubble up through pipes and drains, encroach on fresh water supplies and saturate infrastructure.”
Those are certainly unpleasant things to deal with. Fortunately for Florida state officials, they apparently don’t have to talk about it.