Call it the “CC” word. The allegations have been floating around the Capitol for weeks – Governor Rick Scott has a gag order on members of his administration – use any words or phrases related to climate change and you’re history.
In a Senate committee this week, the suits couldn’t resist poking fun. Here’s Scott’s Division of Emergency Management Director, Bryan Koon, getting roasted by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
“I used the word climate change. That may be, but I’m suggesting that as a state, we use the word atmospheric reemployment. That might be something the governor can get behind," Clemens said in an obvious dig at Governor Rick Scott and Koon.
The joke had his fellow Senators and most attendees, cracking up.
But for Chris Byrd, a Department of Environmental Protection attorney turned whistle blower, the episode is anything but funny. He claims his department got a stern warning in 2013. Violators would lose their job, he says.
“After Rick Scott was elected, the general counsel’s office held a staff meeting in which the attorneys were warned not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ or even ‘sustainability," Byrd said.
Scott denies it, but other than that, doesn’t discuss it.
Another DEP employee made the same allegations last month and that was the final straw for a group of college-aged protesters. Some with their mouths duct taped, they marched Friday to Scott’s waiting room. Protest leaders hand-delivered a petition to Scott’s receptionist, cameras and reporters in tow.
“If the governor is telling the truth then should have nothing to hide. Thank you very much, much. I appreciate it.”
Another protester, Lakey, who has no last name, is a PhD English Lit student at FSU. She’s fighting a bill that would keep the public from inspecting the records of university presidential searches. Her issue is the First Amendment.
“I’m here to urge the Department of Environmental Protection inspector general to investigate the issue of Governor Rick Scott closing down issues and the use of the word climate change inside the DEP.”
Scott’s position is evolving. In 2010, during his first campaign, he said he was “not convinced” global warming exists. By last year around election time, it was,“I’m not a scientist.”
Jeff Chanton, a professor in the department of earth, ocean and atmospheric science at FSU, was one of a handful of scientists who met with Scott last year to make the case for global warming.
“So I would like to hope that there’s some progress there. He’s gone from being a climate change denier to a climate change agnostic," Chanton said.
Scott didn’t announce a change of heart before or after the meeting.
“I’m excited to talk to meet this afternoon with the scientists. We’re going to talk about global warming. My focus on that is solutions," he said at the time.
That is one of the few times Scott is ever recorded saying the "G-W" word. These days, when asked about his position, he responds with a list of his environmental accomplishments.