Climate, Scott and Mitch McConnell

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Climate, Scott and Mitch McConnell

Florida Governor Rick Scott appearing at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/cc/flickr)

Blind and naked Ignorance
Delivers brawling judgments, unashamed,
On all things all day long.
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Merlin and Vivien

There are two ways to attack climate change. One comes from Rick Scott of Florida and the other from Mirthful Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. They attack the same problem with different weapons. It all revolves around what some people call “climate change.” For Rick Scott the words are anathema because they suggest there is such a thing. For Mitch McConnell, attempts to stop it are offensive because those attempts have an adverse financial impact on those who give him money for his campaigns.

The two words are meant to describe a phenomenon that many scientists say the world is undergoing. Reports from assorted Florida sources demonstrate how Rick Scott responds to his fear of the words. The most recent example was offered by Barton Bibler, the Land Management Plan Coordinator for the Division of State Lands in Florida. He was reprimanded for “Poor Performance”, “Insubordination” and “Conduct Unbecoming a Public Employee.” It all came about because of his use of the proscribed words at a teleconference in which he participated. From the bureaucratic gobbledy gook in the Reprimand it is hard to understand exactly what Mr. Bibler, did or failed to do to deserve the reprimand. In speaking with the Washington Post, however, Mr. Bibler explains his offense. He said that in the teleconference there was a discussion about reports dealing with climate change and Mr. Bibler opined during the teleconference that the Keystone XL Pipeline would negatively affect Florida. He was told by his supervisor to remove the words “climate change” from his minutes of the teleconference. His subsequent refusal to do so constituted “insubordination.” As Mr. Bibler explained to the paper’s reporter: “We should be talking about climate change. If we can’t, that’s absurd. And it’s harming our future.”

The governor’s office insists there is no ban on the words. Other state employees, however, confirm the fact that they have been forced to remove the words from reports they have prepared. One scientist said she was required to remove the words “climate change” from a state report on climate change. Doug Young, the president of the south Florida Audubon Society, told the Guardian newspaper that when undergoing training to become a presenter of a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) power point presentation on Florida’s coral reefs he was told he couldn’t mention climate change in his presentation. A report from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting quote six people who said the DEP banned the use of the words “global warming” or “climate change.” The people quoted included a former attorney with the department’s office of general counsel. Both the agency and the governor’s office said there was no such policy in place although when asked to provide examples of where the phrases were used in DEP materials, no examples were provided. Mirthful Mitch (aka Merry Mitch because of his unfailingly cheerful demeanor) is less concerned with words and more concerned with action.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued regulations that will reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and force many of them to close. Those plants are the major source of greenhouse gas emissions and funds for Mr. McConnell’s campaigns. (In the last election cycle coal companies gave Mr. McConnell more than a quarter of a million dollars, more than any other candidate received from them.) Mr. McConnell’s home state of Kentucky is one of the largest producers of coal and if coal fired power plants are forced to close, it will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that adversely affect all of us, as well as the profits enjoyed by his supporters through the sale of coal.

There is no way the senate can block implementation of the EPA rules but Mr. McConnell has begun an effort to get states to block enforcement of the new rules by engaging in litigation. He has sent a letter to every governor in the country outlining a legal strategy they can follow to stop the rules from becoming effective in their states. By tying up implementation of the rules through litigation, states that follow Mr. McConnell’s road map guarantee that carbon pollution will continue unabated in their jurisdictions for the foreseeable future.

Alan Rusbridger is the editor of the Guardian newspaper who is retiring this summer after 20 years in that position. In an editorial in that paper on March 6, 2015, he said that one of his few regrets as he looked back at his tenure was “that we had not done justice to this huge, overshadowing, overwhelming issue of how climate change will probably, within the lifetime of our children, cause untold havoc and stress to our species. . . . So in the time left to me as editor, I thought I would try to harness the Guardian’s best resources to describe what is happening and what-if we do nothing-is almost certain to occur, a future that one distinguished scientist has termed as ‘incompatible with any reasonable characterisation of an organized, equitable and civilized global community.’” Messrs. McConnell and Scott have no interest in being members of an “organized, equitable and civilized global community” nor do they belong in it. It’s a pity that they are in positions where their lack of interest adversely affects so many.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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