After news broke that Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott’s administration had forbid state employees from using the phrase “climate change” during official business, many conservatives claimed that people were overreacting. After all, they reasoned, Rick Scott wouldn’t seriously punish scientists for talking about climate change.
Oh yes, he would.
According to a press release issued by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Land Management Plan Coordinator named Bart Bibler has already been suspended without pay for mentioning in his notes that climate change was discussed at an environmental meeting. His “Official Written Reprimand” cites things like “insubordination” and “conduct unbecoming a public employee.” The reprimand goes on to explain in detail that Bibler was being punished for giving the “appearance” that a meeting had been held to discuss climate change – a no-no in Republican Florida:
“I asked you to provide a summary of the meeting. You first provided a takeaway summary of the meeting, but had provided that summary in a document that used the agenda header from Ann Lazar, the meeting moderator, which gave the appearance that this was Ann’s official meeting agenda that included climate change.“
Later the letter asks Bibler to hereby abstain from inserting “any personal agenda or political advocacy into the work you perform” and to “remain unbiased and impartial, and focused on the issues at hand.”
If the violation is ridiculous, than Bibler’s punishment is doubly so. According to PEER:
As he was given the reprimand on March 9th, Mr. Bibler was told to not return to work for two days which would be charged against his personal leave time. Two days later he received a “Medical Release Form” requiring that his doctor supply the DEP with an evaluation of unspecified “medical condition and behavior” issues before being allowed to return to work.
Only in Rick Scott’s Florida can a man be deemed mentally unfit for agreeing with 97% of the world’s scientists on the state of the Earth’s climate.
What’s clear is that Florida’s state officials are engaged in a whitewash campaign veiled in the absurd notion that not addressing climate change is “neutral” and any person brave enough to bring it up is a politically-motivated ne’er-do-well. In actuality, it’s just the opposite. It’s no secret that belief in climate change divides down party lines, and disbelief in a warming planet falls squarely on the conservative side of the political spectrum. As much as politicians don’t like to admit it, the dispassionate data about global temperature paints a very convincing picture – no amount of politics can change that.
The good news is that you get the impression that environmental employees in Florida are growing increasingly frustrated by Florida’s attempt at policing science. Bibler’s reprimand contains a telling anecdote. After his boss sent him an email requesting he remove any mention of discussion of climate change from his notes, Bibler replied with a picture of the words “Keystone XL” crossed out in red. Translation: If you’re going to inject politics into this discussion than I am too. I have to say, for a man who’s title is “Land Management Plan Coordinator” that’s a pretty punk rock thing to do.
And it’s hard to blame Bibler and others in his position from being frustrated with the state of affairs in Florida, after all, sitting low and covered on nearly every side by water, it’s the state that is most obviously at risk of feeling the negative effects of climate change. And soon.