The latest victim of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s unwritten ban on state officials using the words “climate change” is his own disaster preparedness lieutenant, who stumbled through verbal gymnastics to avoid using the scientific term in a newly surfaced video.
Bryan Koon, Florida’s emergency management chief, was testifying before the state’s Senate budget subcommittee on March 19, answering questions about the news that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will pull federal funding from states that refuse to directly address climate change.
In the video, uploaded by the advocacy group Forecast The Facts, Sen. Jeff Clemens (D) asks Koon whether he is aware of the updated FEMA guidelines, which would block 2016 funding in states whose governors refuse to implement so-called hazard-mitigation plans for global warming.
Koon affirmed that the state’s next plan would be required to include “language to that effect.”
Clemens came back, saying: “I used ‘climate change,’ but I’m suggesting, maybe as a state we use ‘atmospheric re-employment,’ That might be something the governor can get behind” — to laughter among committee members and the audience.
But Koon charged on, clarifying that, “Future versions of our mitigation plan will be required to have language discussing that issue.”
“What issue is that?” Clemens asked with a smile.
“The issue that you mentioned earlier, regarding … ” Koon said, before being drowned out by laughter at his obvious discomfort.
Scott and his staff have repeatedly denied that they have instituted a ban on allowing local officials to say “climate change,” “global warming,” or “sustainability” in public, but the governor has not shied away from publicly expressing skepticism about the science of climate change on the campaign trail.
Koon’s public gaffe comes after recent reports that a longtime state environmental protection employee was issued an official reprimand instructing him to take two days of leave and not return to work before a mental health evaluation ruled him fit for duty after he included the words “climate change” in meeting notes.
Florida is far from the only state that has refused to make action on climate change a priority. Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina all have laws on the books that open the door for climate change denial to be taught in the classroom.
A recent study from Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law also found that 18 states have disaster mitigation plans that either include no provisions for responding to the effects of climate change, or reference it in a dismissive or inaccurate way.