Florida is largely seen as the U.S. state that is most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. But even uttering the term global warming in official communications can get employees at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection in trouble. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting talks to four former DEP officials who say they were ordered to not use the terms global warming or climate change in any emails, reports, or official communications. “We were told not to use the terms climate change, global warming, or sustainability,” said Christopher Byrd, who worked at the DEP from 2008 to 2013.
The unwritten policy apparently first went into effect after Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011. Scott has long expressed skepticism that human activity causes climate change. The DEP’s press secretary, however, said the reports weren’t accurate. “DEP does not have a policy on this,” she said before declining to answer more questions. Yet even if there was no written policy, one former employee said staffers had been warned that just using the banned terms would bring them unwanted attention. “The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget,” writes Tristram Korten.