Staff working for Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have been ordered against using the terms " climate change", "global warming" and even "sustainability" in their official documents and communications, an investigation by the Florida Centre for Investigative Reporting has revealed.
The state happens to be one of the most vulnerable in the country to environmental changes, sea level rise, in particular. But this new information suggests that the DEP's strategy to cope with the issue is just to… not talk about it.
"We were told not to use the terms 'climate change,' 'global warming' or 'sustainability,'" Christopher Byrd, who was an attorney with the DEP's Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013, told Korten. "That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel."
In 2014, another former DEP employee, Kristina Trotta, was told not to use those terms in a staff meeting. "We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact," she explained.
The report points out that the policy is unwritten and has not been made official, but seems to have been communicated widely across the department since Governor Rick Scott was elected in 2011. Scott has repeatedly stated that he's not convinced climate change is caused by human activity, the report explains.
So what are employees allowed to say? The reports explains that terms such as "climate drivers" and "climate-driven changes" are permitted instead. Some more creative euphemisms have also been suggested.
"We were instructed by our regional administrator that we were no longer allowed to use the terms 'global warming' or 'climate change' or even 'sea-level rise'," Trotta told Korten. "Sea-level rise was to be referred to as 'nuisance flooding.'"
A geologist from the University of Miami, Harold Wanless, told Korten that it's going to be hard to plan for climate change if officials won't even talk about it.
"It's beyond ludicrous to deny using the term climate change," he said. "It's criminal at this point."