Did Florida prohibit environmental workers from saying 'climate change'?

According to an investigative report, workers for Florida's Department of Environmental Protection have been barred from using the term 'climate change' in official research.

Wilfredo Lee/FILE/AP
FILE PHOTO- Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to members of the media on July 16, 2014 before a bill signing in Key Biscayne, Fla. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting released a story claiming officials inside the Department for Environmental Protection are barred from mentioning the phrase "climate change" in their official reports or inter-agency communications.

According to an investigative report, workers for Florida's Department of Environmental Protection are not allowed to use the term "climate change" or '"global warming."

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that, since Gov. Rick Scott took office in 2011, directives from the top of the department, which has has 3,000 employees and a $1.4 billion budget, have prohibited employees from using the term "climate change" in all official communications, emails, or reports.

“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee from 2008 to 2013, told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. “That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”

The report comes at a time when the environmental stakes have never been higher for the Sunshine State. Nearly 2.4 million people live in low-lying coastal areas in Florida within four feet of a high tide line, notes climate scientist Ben Strauss on the independent climate research group ClimateCentral.

A report by Florida Atlantic University estimated that even a six inch sea level rise in the next two decades would have catastrophic consequences on South Florida's ability to handle storm surges. Many coastal areas around the US are expected to see storm surges exceeding four feet past high tide lines by 2030, and five feet by 2050, according a study by Dr. Strauss and his colleagues.

A separate study by Strauss found that five million Americans live less than four feet above a high tide line, and six million live less than five feet above a high tide line.

“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 presents,” Mr. Byrd told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

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