Earlier this year, some Virginia lawmakers wanted to conduct a study on how climate change could affect the state's shorelines. Before passing the proposed study though in the General Assembly, a few minor tweaks had to be made to the language.
What were the textual modifications? Instead of using the words "climate change" and "sea level rise," the proposed study used words like “recurrent flooding.”
The Virginian-Pilot reports fear of rejection and outspokeness by conservative groups as the reason for the omission of these "liberal code words."
With a more "politically neutral" tone, the proposed study "sailed" through the Republican dominated General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The Pilot describes this as evidence that "climate skeptics" are "forcing state and local government to stay clear of certain buzzwords [...]." With this tactic, the Pilot goes on to draw the comparison of how "global warming" was phased out in favor of "climate change," citing how it seems now "climate change" and "sea level rise" are being replaced as well.
State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, was the one who requested the word changes in the first place, calling "sea level rise" a "left-wing term." Similarly, the city of Norfolk recently launched a flooding awareness website with no mention of climate change or sea level rise.
Here is some perspective on the language sensitivities in the study:
"It's kind of silly," [Director of Coastal Zone Management Programs Laura McKay] said. "But the reality is, some of the phrases just really send people screaming. We want to use language that doesn't alienate people."
Kris Allen, a Virginia Beach businessman, is one climate skeptic who believes sea level rise is real, is a problem and should be studied and acted upon. Indeed, he would prefer that state and local studies be labeled as such.
He gets upset, however, when government wants to prescribe economically harmful regulations on coal and gas and enact strategies such as cap-and-trade to combat a phenomenon that might be more about sinking land.
"It's a game about control," Allen said, echoing a sentiment that government is really after more control of property rights and individual liberty.
"It's kind of embarrassing that people are playing politics instead of just talking straight," [study co-sponsor State Sen. Ralph] Northam, D-Norfolk] said. "But we went along with it. We needed the study done."
The $138,000 "recurrent flooding" study is being conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science with scientists from the University of Virginia and Old Dominion University.
Read more details about the study and word-play in the Virginian-Pilot here.
[H/T Think Progress]