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In Florida, independent scientists confirm that under Republican Governor Rick Scott, state agencies have been pressured to avoid using the phrase climate change. Florida's governor will not say whether he believes climate change is real. But he denies that he banned the term. NPR's Greg Allen reports.
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Nicole Hernandez-Hammer said she learned of the Scott administration's aversion to the phrase climate change firsthand. She was assistant director of climate change research at Florida Atlantic University, working on a study on preparing the state's transportation infrastructure for sea level rise. Hernandez-Hammer says when she and her colleagues submitted their final report to the Department of Transportation, they received a call.
NICOLE HERNANDEZ-HAMMER: And they were concerned because we were talking a lot about climate change. And so they asked us to tone it down a little bit.
ALLEN: Hernandez-Hammer says she and her colleagues pushed back and kept in some mentions of climate change but agreed to take the phrase out of the summary. She's one of several researchers who've come forward to back up claims first made by former staff members with Florida's environment agency that the Scott administration had an unwritten policy directing them to avoid use of the phrase climate change. Christopher Byrd is a former attorney with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. He says it began shortly after Rick Scott was elected governor.
CHRISTOPHER BYRD: I recall a staff meeting where my superiors told us that if we knew what was good for us, we would not use those terms.
ALLEN: Scott eliminated a statewide energy and climate commission started under his predecessor Charlie Crist. But this week, Scott denied he banned use of the phrase.
GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: That's untrue. At our Department of Environmental Protection - look, there's lots of conversations about this issue.
ALLEN: When pressed on the issue, Scott won't say whether he believes climate change is real or a problem that should be addressed by the state. Researcher Nicole Hammer-Hernandez, who's now with the union for concerned scientists, says the dispute is about more than semantics.
HERNANDEZ-HAMMER: Because if you can't talk freely about climate change, you can't deal with it in a comprehensive and responsible way.
ALLEN: Florida is one of the states scientists say is most vulnerable to climate change and expected sea level rise. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.
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