Why some Wisconsin state employees are barred from mentioning 'climate change'

The state Board of Commissioners of Public Lands voted on Tuesday to officially prohibit staff from talking about or engaging in work related to climate change. Is this the beginning of a trend? 

Joe Skipper/FILE/AP
FILE PHOTO - In this Feb. 28, photo, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Palm Beach, Fla. The Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Land voted 2-1 on Tuesday to ban the use of the phrase "climate change" for conducting official business. The measure was put forth by state treasurer and board member Matt Adamczyk and attorney general Brad Schimel.

In George Orwell's classic novel, "1984," one of the plot lines is the continuous development of a fictional language called "Newspeak." The crafting of the language is an effort by the dictatorial government to ensure there would be no way to verbalize one's dissenting political thoughts because the vocabulary to do so would not exist.

In Wisconsin and Florida, state legislators have employed a politically-motivated gagging of their own; the restriction of state employees who cannot discuss "climate change" even though it may be relevant to their specific agency's responsibilities. 

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands voted 2-1 to enact a ban on work related to climate change for staff members, according to Bloomberg.

The state agency, established in the mid-19th century, is responsible for managing the state's trust funds for education financing and administering 5,600 acres of state land.

 Republican board member and state treasurer Matt Adamczyk did not approve of Tia Nelson, the public land board's executive secretary, using agency time in 2007 and 2008 to research climate change at the request of then-Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Wisconsin Democratic Secretary of State Douglas La Follette provided the sole dissenting vote.  

"Having been on this board for close to 30 years, I’ve never seen such nonsense,” Mr. La Follette said in a conference call Tuesday, Bloomberg reported. “We’ve reached the point now where we’re going to try to gag employees from talking about issues. In this case, climate change."

This all comes after a report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that detailed staff members inside the Fla. Department of Environmental Protection being barred from using the phrases "climate change," "global warming," and "sustainability" in any official communications. The potential consequences of ignoring climate change could be costly for Florida – 2.4 million Floridians live within four feet of a current high tide line, according to Climate Central.

Even Wisconsin, located in the central United States, is not immune to consequences stemming from climate change. A University of Wisconsin report warned that likely effects include drought, heat waves, severe storms, and degradation of the state’s plant and animal life.

According to the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 60 percent of Wisconsinites acknowledge climate change is occurring but only 48 percent attribute it to human activity. 

The board spent nearly twenty minutes discussing "climate change" before voting to ban the phrase, according to Bloomberg. The second vote in support of the ban came from state Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is handling current Wisconsin Governor and GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker's lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to Mother Jones. The lawsuit, filed in conjunction with 11 other states, challenges the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan that would result in Wisconsin and other states having to drastically cut carbon emissions from power plants. 

The burning of coal accounts for around 60 percent of Wisconsin's electricity generation, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Gov. Walker wrote a comment to the EPA about their proposed plan that said, in part, retrofits or closures of some coal power facilities would "be a blow to Wisconsin residents and business owners," according to WisconsinGazette.com.

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