National Institutes of Health Website Changes 'Climate Change' to 'Climate'

This story originally appeared on The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk Collaboration.

The National Institutes of Health deleted multiple references to climate change on its website over the summer, continuing a trend that began when the Trump administration took charge of the dot.gov domain.

The changes were first outlined in a report by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), which has been using volunteers to track changes to roughly 25,000 pages across multiple government agencies since Trump took office. EDGI counted five instances in which the term “climate change” was changed to simply “climate” on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) site.

The NIH, an agency of the federal government, is the world’s leading public health research body.

EDGI’s findings can be confirmed by using the internet archive Wayback Machine and looking up the affected NIH pages. The database appears to show the deletion as having occurred between 28 June and 6 July of this year.

The references were altered on pages belonging to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH’s division dedicated to the study of the environment and its effects on human health. NIEHS also removed links to an educational factsheet from two separate pages, and a page dedicated to explaining the environmental impacts of climate change.

climate change The sun rises over an oil field in California’s Monterey Formation. David McNew/Getty Images

The scrubbing was ineffectual, though, as the term was mostly only deleted from page titles and subheadings. “No other language changes were made and the term ‘climate change’ continues to be used in the body text of the page,” EDGI reported.

For example, on the first edited page cited in the report, originally called “Climate Change and Human Health” before the word “change” was removed, the term “climate change” still appears 35 times. Even the page URL, which ends with “/climatechange,” remains unaffected. The page still accurately explains: “Climate change makes many existing diseases and conditions worse, but it may also help introduce new pests and pathogens into new regions or communities.”

Donald Trump and key members of his administration have expressed skepticism and outright rejection of the scientific consensus about man-made climate change. Trump has tweeted inaccurate or misleading facts or opinions about climate change more than 100 times.

In May, the Guardian reported that the Trump administration was systematically cutting references to climate change from government websites, scrapping an entire section from the White House page on climate change, and replacing it with a brief treatise entitled “An America first energy plan” that made no mention of the empirically uncontroversial reality of climate change.

Emails obtained by the Guardian earlier this month revealed that staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture had been told to avoid using the term "climate change" in their work, and instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead.

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