Employees in Florida’s environmental agency have been banned for years from using terms like “climate change” and “global warming” in official communications, according to a report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
The policy at the Department of Environmental Protection took effect after Gov. Rick Scott (R) took office in 2011, with Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the agency’s chief, according to a report the group published in the Miami Herald.
The ban is about more than just semantics, former department employees, volunteers and consultants told the center.
They said it has affected how the agency has published reports and communicated with the public and other groups about dangers to the low-lying coastal state, which researchers have said faces some of the worst risks of any area in the country due to climate change.
But spokeswomen for the department and for Scott denied the report, saying no such policy exists.
Scott has publicly expressed doubts about the scientific consensus on climate change, that greenhouse gases warm the earth's atmosphere.
He gained national attention in 2014 when he told journalists that he was “not a scientist” when asked about the human role in climate change.
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that a report on research priorities from Florida’s Oceans and Coastal Council contained 15 references to climate change in the year before Scott took office.
But in the 2014-2015 edition of the report, climate change only appeared in reference to previous reports or conferences, save for a mention that former employees told the center was likely a mistake.
People who worked at the environmental agency said they had explicit instructions from top officials under Scott that they were not to mention climate change or global warming.