Florida’s authorities want to wish climate change away

Climate change-induced flooding is bound to change Florida’s coastline.
Climate change-induced flooding is bound to change Florida’s coastline.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri
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This post has been corrected.

Americans excel at denial. Take climate change. There’s overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity has accelerated climate change. But a staggering 52% of the population agreed with the statement “The climate change we are currently seeing is a natural phenomenon that happens from time to time,” in a global poll published last year. It comes as little surprise, then, that some of the country’s officials have successfully pretended that human-induced climate change does not exist.

Authorities in Florida have joined the long list of deniers by banning employees of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from using the phrases “climate change” or “global warming,” the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) revealed Sunday (March 8).

The swampy land of Florida is one of the American regions more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels are anticipated to affect 30% of Florida’s beaches over the next 85 years, FCIR reported. According to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, climate-change-induced flooding is bound to threaten the state’s cities, beaches, tourism, tribal communities, and fresh water supply. Sea levels are forecast to rise up to 6.6 feet (2 m) by 2100, while 2 feet is enough to leave the Miami-Dade County sewage plant and nuclear power facility on Biscayne Bay marooned.

But according to several former employees of Florida’s DEP, they were instructed by supervisors to avoid the two terms, along with “sea-level rise” or “sustainability,” instead using phrases like “nuisance flooding” for the former or “climate drivers.”

The change happened soon after governor Rick Scott, a well-known climate-change skeptic, was elected, according to FCIR. A DEP spokesperson told Quartz that the allegations were “not true.” The governor’s office also denied the existence of such a policy.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said that 52% of Americans agreed with the statement that climate change “is a natural phenomenon that happens from time to time,” which is a true statement. It left out the words “the climate change we are currently seeing”.