- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
On April 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) abruptly took down its long-standing treasure trove of online climate change resources, and put up a message stating that they were being updated to reflect the new priorities of the Trump administration.
It's becoming more and more clear that one of those priorities is to downplay the threat of climate change. And one way way to do that is to ignore it altogether.
To that end, on Friday, a group that monitors federal websites for changes in climate change content reported that the some of the climate websites taken down in April have returned to the EPA's site, with all references to climate change removed.
According to the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative's website monitoring group (EDGI), an EPA website that previously offered climate and energy resources for state, local, and tribal governments has been stripped of its references and links to climate science and policy. Prior to April 28, the site had contained programs and tools to assist these government entities in becoming more energy efficient, using more renewable energy, and developing climate change policies.
Instead, that main site is now a page on "energy resources," including a "Clean Energy Finance Tool," Energy Information Administration state reports, newsletters, and other resources with links to previously existing EPA climate sites removed as well. The new webpage, which went online in late July, but was just analyzed in detail on Friday, omits about 15 mentions of the word "climate" from the main page for local governments.
"Large portions of climate resources that were formerly found on the previous website have not been returned, and thus have ultimately been removed from the current EPA website," the EDGI web monitoring group stated.
In addition, the urls epa.gov/climatechange and epa.gov/climateimpacts continue to redirect to a notice page about forthcoming updates, though no dates are given as to when these sites may be back. An archived version of the EPA's old climate change websites is still available, however.
According to EDGI, the pre-April 28 version of the state, local, and tribal governments website contained 380 webpages, whereas the new one has just 175. Links to resources and tools for planning for climate change impacts at the local and regional levels were among the pages scrubbed entirely from the new version, inhibiting the ability of such governments — many of which are led by governors, mayors, or tribal entities in favor of taking action on climate change — to adequately plan for climate impacts.
The EPA's website changes might seem insignificant when compared to other administration actions on climate change, like announcing its intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement. However, by making it harder for Americans to prepare for global warming-induced phenomena, such as heat waves and sea level rise, the Trump administration is effectively putting people at greater risk.
Climate change is already resulting in an uptick in extreme weather events, particularly heat waves and precipitation extremes, across much of the U.S., and coastal states are increasingly having to grapple with rising sea levels.
The Obama administration spent years trying to develop materials to help local governments take climate science and put it to use protecting their communities, but those have all been taken down in the new version of the Trump administration's climate site.
The EPA's voluminous climate change website had previously been maintained under both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to the first Bush administration, and it had served as a valuable tool for teachers and students, researchers, and government officials looking for data and advice on climate resilience efforts.
However, the site has become another casualty of an administration that appears hellbent on erasing as much climate science and climate policy from the books as possible.
Since becoming EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt has pursued an aggressive agenda of dismantling the Obama administration's climate change regulations, culminating in his action on Oct. 10 to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, which would limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
Pruitt has said he doesn't believe that science shows greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming, even though scientific evidence demonstrates exactly that link.
Pruitt instead wants to hold televised "red team, blue team" debates between climate scientists and deniers to contest the merits of mainstream climate science research.
“The American people deserve, in my view, an objective, transparent, honest discussion about what we know and what we don’t know about CO2," Pruitt told the conservative Heritage Foundation on Wednesday. "It’s never taken place.”
Scrubbing agency websites of climate information is therefore in line with Pruitt's ideology, as well as that of the president, who has called global warming a "hoax."
Scientists and environmentalists criticized the EPA's website changes, saying they obscure the facts about global warming.
“Removing climate change resources from the EPA website is offensive and dangerous. At a time when Americans have lost their loved ones and their homes to floods and fires, are living without fresh water or electricity, and are experiencing multi-billion-dollar disasters exacerbated by climate change, this is not the time to impede public access to critical climate change information," said Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement.