Language

Florida’s Climate Change Gag Order Claims Its First Victim

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Florida’s Republican governor Rick Scott had directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to stop using terms like “climate change” and “global warming” in any official correspondence or during meetings. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), that gag order has now claimed its first victim.

PEER made the following assertions in a press release today:

Barton Bibler is a long-time DEP employee who now serves as Land Management Plan Coordinator in its Division of State Lands. He attended a Florida Coastal Managers Forum on February 27, 2015 at which climate change and sea-level rise were discussed among a mix of public attendees. Mr. Bibler’s official notes on this meeting reflected all of that discussion. He was directed to remove any hot button issues, especially explicit references to climate change, and then was given a letter of reprimand for supposedly misrepresenting that the “official meeting agenda included climate change.”

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.

As of today, Bibler has not returned to work, and is uncertain if he will even be able to return. PEER is requesting state officials to open an investigation into the handling of Bibler’s “mandatory leave” directive.

Florida’s War on Words 'Climate Change' Will Doom The Sunshine State

Officials in the state of Florida are finally taking action against climate change. They have declared war on global warming. They are taking a firm stand and making bold actions to finally end the threat of climate change.

But before you get too excited, we aren’t talking about the climate change that threatens our coastlines, water supplies, or agriculture. We’re talking about the actual language used to describe these events.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is no longer allowed to use the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in official correspondence. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) spoke with former DEP officials who told the agency that the department was forbidden from using those terms when any official communication from the agency. They were also not allowed to use the word “sustainability,” according to the FCIR.

More Than a War of Words: Gas Industry Plays Fracking Victim

Evoking an emotional response in one’s audience is a rhetorical means of persuasion well documented since Aristotle. But like Aristotle writes in his Rhetoric, if the reliable character of the speaker isn’t enough to convince a crowd, an emotional appeal might be the next best route to getting what you want – a strategy that is evidently well suited to a powerful but untrustworthy voice, like that of the gas industry.

The oil and gas industry's chief spokespeople have become rhetorical masters, the veritable trailblazers of the devolution of public relations into spin and misinformation campaigns. They probably have a thing or two to teach Aristotle about the art of persuasion and conjuring. Take climate science for example, where the industry has conjured up a ‘climate change debate’ out of thin air, or warming air for that matter. With a few flicks of the rhetorical wand a ‘debate’ over the anthropogenic warming of the climate began, despite an overwhelming consensus on the matter from the world’s leading scientists.  

But we’ve long passed the point where we take industry at its word. We have become too skeptical to trust the ‘character of the speaker’ and the industry knows this all too well. Hence the blatant emotional play at work in so much oil and gas industry public relations. 

Most recently the gas industry has chosen to play victim in a rather surprising aspect of the fracking controversy – its language.
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