The Miami Herald published a piece that went viral over the weekend. “In Florida, officials ban term ‘climate change’,” the headline blares. Here’s the gist of the story:
The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years. But you would not know that by talking to officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state agency on the front lines of studying and planning for these changes. DEP officials have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. The policy goes beyond semantics and has affected reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department with about 3,200 employees and $1.4 billion budget.
Whoa! That’s pretty crazy, right? I mean, climate change and global warming — which we know are responsible for everything from the rise of ISIS to earthquakes — has to be talked about. How could the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ban such important phrases?
The piece is actually written by Tristram Korten of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
Her His investigation involves relying on the claims of former employees, most prominently one who was fired. And, well, it turns out the department says it doesn’t have such a policy. Two different employees denied the claims of the policy. The rest of the piece discusses one presentation on coral reefs where, we’re told, the phrases were banned.
It’s all very hot news, being passed around on social media.
In Florida, officials ban term ‘climate change’ | Miami Herald http://t.co/StIDwsqe9o
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 9, 2015
And much of the passing around is being done with much harumphing. We’re led to believe, after all, that this ban has been the work of one particularly nefarious and science-denying Republican governor and his minions.
What’s interesting, though, is that if the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has such a ban, it’s the most poorly enforced ban on record.
Take this page, most recently updated on October 6, 2014. The page is titled “About Air.” In a section on the “Greenhouse Effect,” we’re told:
Global climate change, sometimes referred to as global warming, occurs when the amounts of carbon dioxide and other such gases in the atmosphere increase beyond natural levels, thereby intensifying the greenhouse effect. Increased carbon dioxide levels can result from human activities such as the burning of coal, oil and gas and the clearing of forests without replanting. The following web sites offer additional information on climate change issues:
And then ten web sites are listed under “climate change resources.”
Here’s a glossary for kids that lists “global warming” under the letter “g.”
Here’s a page on coral reefs and, uh, anthropogenic causes of environmental problems. This ban is pretty intense.
Here’s the department marketing an educational publication on “climate change” that focuses on the topics of “Climate, Global warming, Greenhouse effect, and Greenhouse gases.” Here’s more educational material produced by the department that focuses on global warming and climate change.
Now, maybe there is something going on at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But it’s pretty safe to say that — at least as far as official department publications on the department’s publicly accessible web site are concerned — it’s not a “ban” by any sense of the word.