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In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, bans use of ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ in reports

When he’s been asked about his views on climate change, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said he “was not a scientist.”

But when it comes to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, employees are prohibited from using terms such as “climate change” and “global warming,” on orders from Scott, according to a report from the Miami Herald.

Employees have been ordered to not use the terms in any “official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.”

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

The Miami Herald report says the policy went into effect once Scott took office in 2011.

“We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact,” said Kristina Trotta, a former department of environmental protection employee said.

While multiple DEP employees went on the record to confirm the policy exists, state officials officials denied such a claim.

“DEP does not have a policy on this,” the department’s press secretary, Tiffany Cowie, wrote in an email. She declined to respond to three other emails requesting more information.

“There’s no policy on this,” wrote Jeri Bustamante, Scott’s spokeswoman, in an email.

Trotta, who has a masters degree in marine biology, insists she was following orders to scrub “climate change” from reports, something that pained her.

“We were instructed by our regional administrator that we were no longer allowed to use the terms ‘global warming’ or ‘climate change’ or even ‘sea-level rise,’ ” said Trotta. “Sea-level rise was to be referred to as ‘nuisance flooding.’”

When staff protested, Trotta said, “the regional administrator told us that we are the governor’s agency and this is the message from the governor’s office. And that is the message we will portray.”

The Miami Herald looked at two different versions of the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council’s Annual Research Plan. The 2009-10 report, which was published a year before Scott was elected, had 15 references to climate change, including an entire section called “Research Priorities — Climate Change.”

The 2014-15 report only contains “climate change” if it is part of a title of a previous report or conference.