Gov. Rick Scott Banned Talk of “Global Warming” and “Climate Change”

The Miami Herald reported yesterday that though “Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years,” the Florida Department of Environmental Protection “have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports.”

The cadaverous Gov. Rick Scott put this unwritten policy in place in 2011, giving them plausible deniability. They can say, as they are saying now, that they have no such policy, and they don’t, at least on paper:

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,'” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel…”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,” Byrd said.”

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Imagine that. Republicans unwilling to face facts. Whatever will be next?

This is one of the states by the way, you might remember, that also does not like the word uterus, though they don’t mind legislating the hell out of said body part:

Early in 2011 state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, got in trouble in the Florida legislature for suggesting that his wife “incorporate her uterus” to stop Republicans “from pushing measures that would restrict abortions” as the Tampa Bay Times put it. The Republicans “told Democrats that Randolph is not to discuss body parts on the House floor.”

Apparently, uteruses, like climate change and global warming, disappear if they are not mentioned. But ignoring facts doesn’t change facts.

Okay, so climate change is real. It doesn’t get any more hardcore real than this. It’s not a popular topic here, nobody likes to read it, but there it is, and there is no getting around it. Whether we talk about it or not, it will affect all our lives, and the lives of our children in very drastic ways in the years to come. Their world will not be our world of plenty.

  • It’s getting warmer (2014 was the warmest year since records began to be kept in 1880);
  • ocean temperatures are rising (part of the Pacific is warming at least 15 times faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years) and the more they heat up the less able to absorb C02 they become;
  • the polar ice caps are melting at an “unprecedented rate” (Greenland and Antarctica are losing 500 cubic kms of ice annually);
  • sea levels are rising (since 1992 at the rate of 0.12 inches per year);

The cold, hard, undeniable fact is that our immediate prospects are bleak: nothing we can do at this point will save us from the consequences of what we have already wrought. It’s too late for that.

The consequences of global warming for low-lying coastal regions should be too obvious to repeat here. At Key West, according to NOAA, the sea level is almost 9 inches higher than it was a century ago. Even if we stop producing greenhouse gasses in 2016, sea levels will rise more than 1 meter. It’s a done deal.

And we are not going to stop producing greenhouse gasses next year.

The Florida Oceans and Coastal Council (FOCC)’s “Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise in Florida: An Update on the Effects of Climate Change on Florida’s Ocean & Coastal Resources” (December 2010) detailed these consequences, including effects on the state’s beaches, the barrier islands, the Everglades (well, Florida’s version of the Koch brothers want to destroy these anyway, so…), and even the salt-water intrusion of Florida’s Biscayne Aquifer, the source of 1.3 billion gallons of fresh water every day for Floridians.

According to Deutsche Bank, solar will be the dominant source of electricity by 2030, which is great news. On the other hand, the FOCC tells us, “Sea-level rise of as little as 3 to 6 inches may begin to compromise the effectiveness of the area’s coastal flood-control structures, reducing their capacity by as much as 20% to 40% by 2030.” Solar power won’t save Florida.

And we can point to the Syrian Civil War as an example of the effects of climate change. Complex systems collapse, contributed to by climate change and prolonged drought, brought about the complete collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations, which ought to be a lesson for our time.

So why is it that Florida Republicans think if you don’t say climate change it will go away?

“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” said one former employee.

A “true” fact. Unlike an actual but unwelcome “fact” like science. In the conservative lexicon, “true” means “acceptable.” All science that is uncongenial to Republican ideology becomes “junk” science. Thus if you are against anti-environment money-making schemes like Keystone XL, you are anti-science.

Even more bizarrely, President Obama, who says climate change is the greatest threat facing us, gets labeled as a science denier by the man who put stupid back into the Republican Party, Bobby Jindal. Since he has a lot of low-lying real estate in his state too, Jindal might want to reconsider his position.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was mocking:

Democrats tell us they understand the world, but then they call climate change, not radical Islamic terrorism, the greatest threat to national security. Look, I think we all care about our planet, but melting icebergs aren’t beheading Christians in the Middle East.

Maybe Priebus has learned to mock under water? If not, he’d better. Because Republicans can call sea-level rise “nuisance flooding” but I call a meter of sea-level rise more than a nuisance.

History will damn Rick Scott and Reince Priebus as the criminals they are. But none of that will save Florida.

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