Climate change is real. The state of Florida is particularly susceptible to its effects, being a largely coastal landmass. Hurricanes and floods strike with increasing frequency, damaging or outright destroying homes, businesses, and public infrastructure. As a result, maintenance and repair costs are rising, too. And that doesn't even touch on the human impact—the elderly residents killed by extreme temperatures, and the food- and mosquito-borne diseases that mutate and spread through the swampy heat. The latest studies predict a two-foot rise in sea level over the next forty years.
But you wouldn't know any of that from a visit to the Florida Statehouse at any point during the reign of Republican Governor Rick Scott, however. That's because Scott had implemented an unofficial policy banning the use of "climate change" and "global warming" in all official government communications ("unofficial" only in that Scott was a conniving politician who understood that you can't legally ban words in the United States, but you can use your authority to bully people out of using them anyway). It's the same tactic that the Trump Administration has used to steamroll federal scientists. From the Miami Herald:
"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."
Kristina Trotta, another former DEP employee who worked in Miami, said her supervisor told her not to use the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in a 2014 staff meeting. "We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact," she said.
Words have power, yes. But if our planetary ecology doesn't speak the same language, then banning words won't do a damn thing to stop the wild winds, the rising waves, or the dangerously sweltering heat. In fact, the opposite is true: naming something gives you power of it, because it helps you to perceive and understand it. Pretending that "climate change" and "global warming" simply don't exist is just willful ignorance, and that only makes the problem worse.
Now—finally—for the first time in a friggin' decade—the Florida GOP has acknowledged the truth. On Monday, October 14, 2019, the words "sea level rise" were heard in the Florida Statehouse for the first time in nearly a decade. Those words came from the lips of Florida State Senator Tom Lee, the chair of the Committee on Infrastructure and Security, who's also a Republican. Lee then added that "We lost a decade"—and he's right.
Lee, a home builder from the Tampa area, said after the meeting that many of his colleagues "emotionally shut down when we have this conversation" because "they don't know how to respond to it" and the "magnitude of costs is what's so daunting."
But, Lee hinted, the committee might produce legislation, although he wouldn't elaborate on what it would include.
"I just feel it's a duty we owe to future generations to at least have planned for this to some extent,'' he said. "What can we do in this environment? I don't know. But we have got to push that envelope."
It's a small gesture, and perhaps too little too late. But hopefully the other Republicans will get on board, and hopefully Florida catches up before it sinks.