As the evidence of global warming grows stronger and the consequences more apparent, some politicians in Florida and Wisconsin are forbidding state employees from using the words "global warming" and "climate change." I guess they think that if they don't talk about it, the ice caps and glaciers will stop melting and the oceans will stop rising. Talk about putting your head in the sand.

In Florida, much of the land along the shore is considered high risk for flooding. As the oceans rise, flooding along the Florida coasts become more frequent and damaging. As development along the coasts continues, the damage becomes more expensive with every storm. Insurance companies want to consider these variables in their premium calculations, builders need to consider these changing variables in their construction plans, and real estate companies need to think about these issue when completing property assessments.


In Florida, all of these businesses depended on the sound and scientific advice from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The scientists at the FDEP track flooding and flooding risks along the Florida coast. However, according to Christopher Byrd, former attorney for FDEP from 2008 to 2013, these scientists "were told not to use the terms 'climate change,' 'global warming' or 'sustainability'" in any of their reports" and were not allowed to consider the effects of climate change and global warming in their discussions.

"That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel," stated Byrd.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a leading contender for the GOP nomination for president in 2016, thinks Florida has it right. Wanting to appear as right-wing as the best of them, aides from Walker's office recently ordered the staff of Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands not to use the term "climate change" or discuss climate change during official business. This order applies to meetings, emails and any other official BCPL correspondence.

Part of the BCPL's responsibility is to monitor the condition of state forests in Wisconsin which, according to experts, has declined and will continue to decline as the climate warms. But if they don't talk about it, perhaps it will not happen.

The chair of the Wisconsin BCPL, Tia Nelson, is in trouble because in 2007-2008, she was appointed by the previous governor to co-chair a global warming task force and identify how global warming may impact Wisconsin. Nelson told Bloomberg Business, "It honestly never occurred to me that being asked by a sitting governor to serve on a citizen task force would be objectionable."

It appears that state employees in Wisconsin are not only forbidden from talking about global warming or climate change, but any discussions in their past on these topics are also being questioned, even if charged to do so by their employer at the time.

But it is not only the BCPL that is under attack from the Walker administration in Wisconsin. According to Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Fifty-seven employees of the state Department of Natural Resources began receiving formal notices this week that they might face layoff as part of Gov. Scott Walker's budget for the next two fiscal years."

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued new policy guidelines last month for states to qualify for emergency planning and preparedness funding. States must update their emergency disaster plans every five years and submit their plans to FEMA to receive planning and preparedness funding. The new guidelines require that these plans consider the higher risks related to global warming. Thus, for Florida, this would include increased flooding from rising oceans and stronger storms. FEMA distributes more than $4 billion per year to help states prepare for natural disasters. States like Florida could lose millions of dollars in federal emergency assistance unless they update their emergency plans to address global warming issues.

Maybe congressional Republicans in Washington could also use the don't-talk-about-it strategy employed by their state governors. If they just stopped talking about abortion, gay marriage and immigration, these issues would just disappear.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. E-mail him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.