Last year, during our annual fundraising drive, we told you we would use the resources you generously donated to fund a series in 2018 on climate change and state government inaction. We’re fulfilling our promise, starting today.
This project was an easy choice. The effects of climate change are enormously important to Florida and its more than 20 million residents, in a state where the unspoiled environment, from the beaches to the freshwater springs to the Everglades, is the most precious natural resource.
But we also thought it was time to examine the impact of Gov. Rick Scott’s ban on the use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in official state communications — a controversial practice FCIR revealed in 2015. FCIR’s story about Scott’s policy of climate change denial was picked up around the world and he became the butt of late-night jokes.
As we prepared to launch this series, and as I write this letter, another prominent Republican climate change denier has dominated headlines and given comedians new material.
Scott Pruitt, who resigned July 5 as head of the Environmental Protection Agency facing widespread allegations of scandal and ethical violations, gave Scott’s policy of denial a bigger platform in the federal government. It’s not just the EPA but other critical offices like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which doesn’t mention “climate change” or “global warming” in its five-year strategic plan.
In Florida, Gov. Scott is still asked why he banned “climate change” — a critical question in the state most at risk from the effects of climate change. According to peer-reviewed studies, 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the Earth’s warming trends are “extremely likely” due to human activity.
Now that he’s seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson, Scott should expect a summer and fall of relentless questions about climate change. He’s constantly dogged by such questions as it is:
- His “climate change” ban is regularly referenced in media coverage of him.
- Florida teenagers filed a lawsuit against Scott and his state environmental officials, alleging that the “climate change” ban violates their “fundamental rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and property, which includes a stable climate system capable of sustaining human life.”
- Politicians throughout the nation mock Scott and his policy. California Gov. Jerry Brown even did so from the podium of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
- The Florida Democratic Party started collecting signatures last month on a petition that Scott acknowledge the impacts of climate change, suggesting the “climate change” ban will be a top-line campaign issue in 2018.
- Scott can’t even accept $616 million in federal aid for Hurricane Irma damage without having to answer questions about his climate change denial.
What’s been the impact of Scott’s policy of denial in Florida? How do you measure the effects on public policy and environmental health in light of the state government’s refusal to acknowledge climate change? What can local governments do to address the challenges of climate change in the absence of state leadership?
In a series starting today, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting will try to answer these questions.
You’ve no doubt already read plenty of stories about climate change and Miami Beach and even seen how the ocean is swallowing Florida’s most famous stretch of real estate. We’re going to show how climate change is affecting communities and environmental habitats throughout Florida, and in ways that might surprise you.
FCIR will tell these stories in a series of written and radio reports to be published and broadcast through the end of the year, starting today with WMFE reporter Amy Green’s story about how the small community of Yankeetown, on Florida’s Gulf coast, has taken an unprecedented approach to sea-level rise.
FCIR is producing this series in partnership with three of Florida’s NPR member stations — WUSF in Tampa, WLRN in Miami and WMFE in Orlando. We’re also partnering with state newspapers so our journalism can reach as many Florida residents as possible.
We founded FCIR in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to produce and fund journalism in Florida’s public interest. We believe this series on climate change and government inaction is very much in line with that mission.
And we couldn’t do this journalism without you. While FCIR has received financial support from state and national foundations, the generosity of individual donors has accounted for more than 50 percent of our modest annual budget since 2016. You have made this work possible.
If you like what we’re doing with this series about climate change and state government inaction in 2018, please consider helping fund our project for next year by making a tax-deductible donation to FCIR. Last year, the average individual contribution to FCIR was $50, demonstrating how small donations can add up to support impactful journalism in Florida’s public interest.
I hope you enjoy our reporting on climate change and will consider supporting next year’s endeavor by making a donation today. We’re also looking for input: What topic should we tackle in 2019? Tell us what interests you.
Trevor Aaronson is the executive director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and a 2020 ASU Future Security Fellow at New America. He is also a contributing writer at The Intercept and author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. His 2015 TED Talk, “How this FBI strategy is actually creating U.S.-based terrorists,” has been viewed more than 1 million times and translated into 22 languages.