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Florida Gov. Scott Denies Banning Phrase 'Climate Change'

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Florida Gov. Scott Denies Banning Phrase 'Climate Change'

Environment

Florida Gov. Scott Denies Banning Phrase 'Climate Change'

Florida Gov. Scott Denies Banning Phrase 'Climate Change'

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University scientists and former state employees say Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration has directed them to avoid using the phrase "climate change." Scott denies the charge.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In Florida, more scientists are coming forward to confirm that under Republican Governor Rick Scott, state agencies have been directed not to use the phrase climate change. The story was first reported this week by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Governor Scott says it's not true that he banned the use of climate change, but NPR's Greg Allen has talked to scientists who confirm the report and he joins me now from Tallahassee. And Greg, let's back up just a little bit. When this story emerged, it was a number of folks within the state's Department of Environmental Protection saying this was Florida's unwritten policy under Governor Scott, not to use the term climate change. What are you hearing now?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, that's right Melissa. We've been hearing from independent scientists who did work for the state and they said that they were encouraged and, in fact, pressured to make revisions to their work, to take out the phrase climate change. A researcher who did work for the health department, for instance, says she was pressured to take out the phrase out of a paper that she worked on about a food poisoning. I spoke today to another researcher, Nicole Hernandez Hammer, who says she and others she worked with were pressured to remove the term from a paper they were working on on the state's transportation infrastructure and getting it ready for sea-level rise.

BLOCK: And what is the problem here with the phrase climate change, in terms of Florida politics?

ALLEN: Well, Governor Scott, as you probably know, is a businessman, a Republican who was elected on a campaign pledge saying he wanted to run government like a business and believes that there's too much government regulation, and that he wanted to eliminate some of it. When asked about climate change, his standard response has been that he's not a scientist. So last year, we had a group of scientists in Florida - various universities - who were upset at that continual non-answer and they pressured the governor to meet with them. And they met with him and they told him that climate change is real, that human activity is helping cause it, and that Florida is one of the states most vulnerable to it. But after that meeting, the governor has continued to avoid talking about the issue and that phrase has largely disappeared over the past four years from state documents.

BLOCK: And is that a change, there in Florida, from past policy?

ALLEN: Well, it is interesting because the former governor, Charlie Crist, who was a Republican who then, as you recall, became an independent, when he came into office he was very interested in the issue of climate change. Shortly after being elected, he held a climate change conference, brought in experts from around the world. He helped work with the legislature to form a commission on climate change and they were in operation for about a year-plus when Governor Scott then took office. When he took office, he worked with the legislature to eliminate the commission and then he made a lot of other changes to environmental regulations in the state, aimed at making Florida more business-friendly. So, this whole issue with climate change is really just a small part of a larger policy.

BLOCK: Yeah. And this story has gotten quite a bit of national attention, Greg. How much of a problem do you figure this is for Governor Scott?

ALLEN: Well, Governor Scott has a lot of kind of emerging problems right now - the big question about whether Florida is going to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and if it doesn't, how it's going to make up more than a billion dollars in federal funding that's going away really in just the next few months. Governor Scott is also mending fences with his cabinet now over the firing of the head of the state's law enforcement agency. He was supposed to consult them and he did not do so. And then there's also issues he has he's dealing with about a secret email account that's reminiscent of what we're seeing Hillary Clinton go through in Washington. So, you can just add this to a long list of second term headaches developing for Governor Scott here in Florida.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Greg Allen reporting from Tallahassee. Greg, thanks very much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

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