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Media storm targets Gov. Rick Scott's climate change denial after Hurricane Michael pummels Florida

Media storm targets Gov. Rick Scott's climate change denial after Hurricane Michael pummels Florida
As Hurricane Michael pummeled the Gulf coast, a less deadly but equally ferocious media storm formed around Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose alleged climate change denial has been blamed for putting Floridians in harm's way.

Viral videos, New York Times op-eds, and Guardian contributors all highlighted Rick Scott's "backward stance" on climate change after Michael, a powerful typhoon, made landfall along the Florida Panhandle. According to these media reports and commentaries, Scott's "science denial" has endangered Florida residents. In other words, if Scott were more vocal about man-made climate change, Florida would have been better prepared for – or perhaps could have even prevented – the devastating hurricane.

"Florida is the state most endangered by climate change," declares a video published by Now This. "But Gov. Scott's strategy for dealing with it is denial."

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof also took Scott to task for his stance on climate change, writing that "alas, denying climate change doesn't actually prevent it." He added: "Some folks will say this isn't the moment for politics. But don't we have a responsibility to mitigate the next disaster?"

It's true that Scott, who is currently running for the Senate, has shown little interest in highlighting or combating the alleged dangers of climate change. In 2015, after the governor took office, the Florida Department of Environment was reportedly banned from using the terms "climate change" and "global warming." Two years later, Scott signed a bill that critics dubbed the "anti-science law," which allows residents to file complaints about instructional materials used in public schools.

READ MORE: ‘Widespread catastrophic damage’: Hurricane Michael ravages Florida Air Force base (PHOTOS)

Scott has a section on his website dedicated to environmental issues – but it is curiously absent of any direct mentions of climate change. However, his website does note that Scott "fought to protect Florida's coastline by getting Florida removed from consideration for offshore oil drilling and securing millions of dollars in state funding to help local governments with coastal resilience projects and sea level rise planning."

On the campaign trail, Scott has dodged questions about climate change, resorting to responses such as "I'm not a scientist" to avoid weighing in on the subject.

The motive behind Scott's alleged "science denial" has also received media attention. Last year, the Tampa Bay Times alleged that Scott's personal business ties to the energy industry may be the reason for the state's legislative inaction on climate change. The paper claimed that Scott had hefty investments in petroleum companies that oppose restrictions on greenhouse gases and other environmental regulations.

READ MORE: Hurricane Michael shuts in 40% off Gulf of Mexico oil production

The Florida governor hasn't been the only one singled out by the media for his "backward" views, however. According to The Guardian, anyone who isn't a fervent believer in man-made climate change is to blame for Hurricane Michael – even the hurricane's victims.

"Victims of Hurricane Michael voted for climate deniers,"reads the headline an op-ed published in The Guardian on Thursday. "Elections have consequences. Denying science has consequences. And we are reaping what we sow," the subhead states matter-of-factly.

The headline was later amended to "Victims of Hurricane Michael are represented by climate deniers."

"Climate deniers are making these storms worse by stopping action on climate change. What the hell do we expect to happen when the deniers are writing the laws?" the commentary, penned by John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences, asks rhetorically.

Social media users appeared to largely line up behind the allegations hurled at Scott – although some seemed unconvinced that the governor was at fault.

"Rick Scott can ban the term all he wants in FLORIDA. Climate change is real," one Twitter user wrote.

"He's bought and paid for," claimed another.

Others were less accusatory.

"It's not our words that are negatively affecting the atmosphere. It's the damage we are doing to the planet," one Twitter user noted in response to the Now This video.

"Lol. Like the weather would give a crap if he went mute," a netizen observed.

At least six people have been killed as a result of Hurricane Michael, the third most powerful storm ever to hit the US mainland, according to officials.

The hurricane made landfall as a Category-4 storm, but later weakened to a Category 1 on Wednesday night.

As Hurricane Michael gradually loses strength, however, it appears that the media storm over the consequences of climate change denial is only growing. Will the devastation wrought by Michael and all future hurricanes be laid at the feet of “science deniers”?

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