Talking About Climate Change Banned in Florida?

There’s a common rule of thumb in the news business that if you hear a story that sounds too good or too ridiculously weird to be true, it’s probably from Florida. This is true of stories about politics, it’s true of stories about sports, and it’s most definitely true of stories about crime. But it’s also true of stories about climate policy.

Case in point: the shocking new report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR). According to that report, officials working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, “have been ordered not to use the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any official communications, emails, or reports.

That’s right - the Florida agency most responsible for fighting climate is banned from talking about climate change!

This insane policy apparently started in 2011 when Republican Medicaid scam artist Rick Scott took office as governor, and, according to the FCIR, it’s had a real impact on the DEP’s ability to prepare for the coming climate disaster.

Now, while banning environmental officials from talking about the most important environmental issue of our time is bad policy for any state, for Florida, it’s downright suicidal. All apologies to LeBron, but in the future no one will take their talents to South Beach because South Beach won’t exist.

Florida is ground zero for global warming here in America, and if global warming keeps up its current breakneck pace, much of Florida's coastline will simply disappear.

This is what the federal government’s top climate scientists think the Sunshine State will look like under three feet of sea level rise.

Scary? You bet, which only goes to show how ridiculous Rick Scott’s don’t-say-anything policy about global warming really is.

His state is facing environmental catastrophe on a level we haven’t seen in centuries, and, presumably to keep oil barons like the Koch brothers happy, his administration has decided to ban Florida officials from even talking about it.

This is, in a nutshell, everything that’s wrong with the Republican Party.Republicans can try as hard as they want to stop being what Bobby Jindal called the “stupid party,” but when it comes to climate policy, they are about as stupid as it gets.

Just the other day, for example, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe - the chair of the Senate Environment Committee, for God’s sake - tossed a snowball on the Senate floor to try to prove that global warming is all one big hoax cooked up by greedy scientists looking for grant money (I’m not making this up, by the way, that’s what Jim Inhofe actually believes).

But here’s the thing about Republican stupidity when it comes to climate change: it’s calculated stupidity.

Sure, there are probably a few boneheads out there who actually believe that emissions standards are the next step towards a U.N. takeover of American democracy, but in the end, all the nonsense coming from the Rick Scotts and the Jim Inhofes of the world is about one thing and one thing alone: protecting the power of the fossil fuel industry. And that power, of course, stems from the fact that unlike every other industry in the world, Big Oil doesn’t have to pay to clean up its own trash.

Instead, it passes on the costs of that waste (carbon pollution) to everyone else in the form of what economists call "negative externalities," which include things like the costs of cleaning up from climate-change driven severe weather events, and the costs of pollution-related health problems. Because the fossil fuel industry can dump its waste on the rest of the world without ever having to pay a dime, its business costs are artificially low and its profits are artificially high.

This free ride is the payoff the fossil fuel industry gets from throwing billions and billions of dollars at Republican politicians every year, and it’s the main reason why the industry is so scared of anyone who tries to take action on climate change.

So remember this next time you read a story about some Republican saying something stupid about climate change. This is really all about the money, and as long as they keep raking in the campaign donations from Big Oil, Republican politicians will do everything they can to protect their donors’ interests, even that means making giant fools of themselves in the process.

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