The Trump administration began the process of removing the climate change page from the website of the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday, according to two sources at the agency. This is the latest move in what is seen by some as a campaign to silence dissenting voices on the environment and climate change.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Sources at the EPA speaking to Reuters said they expect the page could be removed as early as Wednesday, and that administration officials had informed the EPA’s communications team to remove the website’s climate change page. The page, which remains online at the time of publication, contains links to scientific research on global warming, as well as detailed data on emissions.
- “If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one of the EPA staffers told Reuters. Some employees of the agency are attempting to convince the administration not to press ahead with their plans, but there are contingency efforts underway to save any data being removed.
- Even before Trump’s inauguration, a group of scientists were working on ways to safeguard all the data contained on the EPA’s site, as well as on others. Dozens of hackers, scientists, and librarians came together last week to try to archive the data contained on a wide range of government websites.
- The latest move by the Trump administration is part of a sweeping round of gag orders placed on multiple agencies related to science and the environment, with the apparent intention of quieting voices opposed to Trump’s own opinions on climate change.
- Employees at the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services and the EPA are all reportedly banned from making any public statements, talking to the press, releasing any new research and in some cases even posting to social media accounts. The Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Energy have all halted or put the brakes on their social media output. Staff at the National Institute of Health were “directed not to send any correspondence to public officials” — including members of Congress.
- A BuzzFeed report suggested that the ban also extended to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the Department of Agriculture, after an email sent by chief of staff told employees that the agency “will not release any public-facing documents.” However the USDA subsequently said the email was “released without departmental direction” and that ARS will be providing updated direction to its staff.
- Despite the social media ban in place, one account has gone rogue, tweeting out climate change facts. Earlier this week the National Park Service was temporarily banned after it retweeted images comparing Trump and Obama’s inaugurations. On Tuesday, the official account of the appropriately-named Badland National Park in South Dakota posted a series of tweets about climate change — though they have now all been deleted.
- On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration was “looking into” the reports of gag orders. “I don’t think it’s any surprise that when there’s an administration turnover that we’re going to review the policies,” he said, adding that he had “asked the team to go look at it.”
- The Trump administration’s embrace of fossil fuels may play well with the oil and coal lobbies, but it seems to run counter to the majority view of the general public. According to a new report by the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of Americans believe the country should be prioritizing the development of alternative forms of energy like wind and solar, while just 27 percent want expanded production of fossil fuel sources.
- The mandates issued by the Trump administration could infringe on scientific integrity policies the Obama administration introduced in 2009. As FiveThirtyEight reports, 26 agencies now have such policies in place, and they “generally mandate the open dissemination of scientific information, encourage employees to speak with the media, give employees the freedom to speak about their personal beliefs as long as it is clear they aren’t speaking on behalf of the agency, and authorize and encourage employees to use social media and blogs.”