Immediately after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the phrase “climate change” was deleted from the White House website. Since then, activists, scientists and laypeople have been concerned that there would be a complete erasure of information and language on the topic on federal websites. A new report released today (January 10), tracks how mentions of climate change have been removed or changed in the year of the Trump administration—and the findings show that the fears were well-founded.
Per The New York Times:
The findings of the report, by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, an international coalition of researchers and activist groups, are in keeping with the policies of a president who has proudly pursued an agenda of repealing environmental regulations, opening protected lands and waters to oil and gas drilling, withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord, shrinking the boundaries of federal monuments and appointing top officials who have questioned or denied the established science of human-caused climate change.
Per the report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed more information about climate change than any other federal agency. From The Times: “An EPA website once titled ‘Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments,’ which included prominent links to programs like ‘Climate Showcase Communities,’ now contains no mention of the term ‘climate change’ and no prominent links to state and local climate information.”
The report, "How Climate Change Web Content is Being Censored Under the Trump Administration," tracked how the EPA also removed hundreds of websites connected to state and local climate change programs; deleted information about international climate change programs from the Department of State, Department of Energy and EPA websites; and deleted the words “climate change” from websites for various federal government agencies and offices. It also removed a website on the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s climate change regulation to reduce pollution from power plants.
The report’s authors ask the question: “Why are these federal agencies putting so much effort into ‘science cleansing’ instead of using time and resources to fulfill agency responsibilities, such as protecting the environment and advancing energy security?”
As Colorlines previously reported, on April 28—the day before 200,000 people attended the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. to protest the administration’s climate policy—the EPA made significant changes to the climate change page of its website. At the time, an agency public affairs associate said in the statement: “As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency. We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
While the authors of the report, as well as an EPA spokesperson, emphasize that data on climate change (such as records on temperatures and emissions) have not been deleted, the information is now harder to find. “The data is certainly less accessible. Links to websites that host the data have been removed,” co-author Toly Rinberg told The Times.