U.S.

EPA Brazenly Wipes Climate Change Language From Website Despite Widespread Objection

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the EPA's mission on December 7. Pete Marovich/Getty Images

The term “climate change” is disappearing from government websites, despite criticism from environmental groups and scientists who say the deletions are scientific censorship.

The Trump administration has rebranded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website to reflect a shift in the agency’s policies and strategy, also resulting in a change in tone and language.

A new report from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) details the results of a study that monitored tens of thousands of EPA webpages. In analyzing the EPA's “Climate ​and ​Energy ​Resources ​for ​State, ​Local, ​and Tribal ​Government” ​subdomain, the report noted that about 15 mentions of "climate change" have been removed from the home page alone. The word climate has even been removed from the title of the subdomain.  

Home Page Side-by-Side State Local Climate and Energy A side-by-side comparison of the home page for the EPA's state/local climate and energy website. Environmental Data & Governance Initiative

The changes at the EPA have been ongoing since President Donald Trump's inauguration in January and the appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the agency a month later.

An earlier EDGI report sparked outrage from advocates who saw “climate change” deletions as a way to deny a scientific reality and a preview of damaging environmental policies to come. Even after public objection, the new administration has not slowed its efforts to move away from what it calls “outdated language.”

In October, three EPA scientists were barred from speaking at conference in Rhode Island, where they were due to discuss their work on climate change. 

"It's definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at EPA,” John King, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, told The New York Times after the speakers were withdrawn from the event.

Environmental advocates have protested the Trump administration’s rollbacks of President Barack Obama’s climate policies. Demonstrators in dozens of cities participated in an April “March for Science” against Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, the selection of Pruitt as EPA administrator and the removal of scientists from EPA advisory boards, among other reasons.

The new report details far-reaching changes to the EPA website. For instance, the “Student’s Guide to Climate Change” has been removed from a prominent position on the main page and buried on the site. The page dedicated to energy education for kids has been altered to emphasize the use of fossil fuels and focus less on climate change. A page describing different approaches to curb greenhouse gas emissions has been removed.

The total number of pages in the subdomain has been cut from about 380 to 175.

699522996 In June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt canceled a speech to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, to avoid significant opposition from New York environmental groups and and other community leaders. At the Harvard Club in Manhattan, over a hundred people organized a protest. Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

An EPA spokesman told The New York Times that original pages are archived and are still available through an archive search. (A search for “climate change” on the website yields thousands of results.) But advocates say that the steady effort to minimize the issue of climate change is a huge problem.

“There is no more significant threat than climate change, and it isn’t just happening to people in far-off countries—it’s happening to us,” Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator under Obama, told the Times. “It is beyond comprehension that EPA would ever purposely limit and remove access to information that communities need to save lives and property. Clearly, this was not a technical glitch; it was a planned shutdown.”

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.