When Donald Trump took office, we noted that The White House removed all mention of climate change from the website, and we noted that, given the way that Trump campaigned, it was unlikely that any information about climate change would make its way back onto the website.
It seems that these fears were justified.
The “Issues” section of the White House is still bereft of any mention of climate change. Instead, it speaks only of reviving the coal industry. This has caused a number of experts to voice concern.
In March, President Trump signed an aggressive executive order reversing the course of US environmental policy and undoing some of the more significant environmental regulations of the Obama era. “The wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency continues,” Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell told Time. “The executive order undercuts a key part of the nation’s response to climate change, without offering even a hint of what will replace it.”
Shortly thereafter, in April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deleted all mentions of climate change from its website, saying in a press release that the website is being updated to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”
In May, the Interior Department released a US Geological Survey study showcasing the link between sea-level rise and climate change, but according to what the report’s authors told The Washington Post, it was edited to omit the phrase, “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.”
In June, CNN reported about the ongoing pattern of avoidance White House staffers have engaged in on the topic of climate change, citing comments from former deputy EPA administrator under President Barack Obama, Bob Perciasepe, who said the avoidance of the term “climate change” by the Trump administration, “just makes them seem out of touch with reality.”
“Climate change is happening, whether they speak about it or not,” Perciasepe, now president of the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told CNN. “You can’t make something not real if you just don’t talk about it. It doesn’t change reality — it’s just a way for them to de-emphasize something the rest of the world knows is going on.”
In July, climate scientist and former director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the US Interior Department Joel Clement became a reluctant whistleblower after the administration involuntarily relocated him to an accounting position based on his former work preparing Alaskans for climate change: “I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. During the months preceding my reassignment, I raised the issue with White House officials, senior Interior officials and the international community, most recently at a U.N. conference in June. It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.”
Also in July, the three remaining employees of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) science division left their posts, leaving the division unstaffed. The White House denied that the division was empty, referring to the overall OSTP which still retained employees. Kumar Garg, an Obama-era OSTP staffer, commented of the White House to The New York Times, “They are flying blind when it comes to science and tech issues.”
Most recently in August, a team of climate scientists inside and outside of 13 government agencies leaked the most comprehensive report on climate change to date, based on their concerns that the White House would alter or suppress their findings. At the same time, leaked memos and emails from the USDA revealed that leadership have instructed staff not to use the phrase “climate change” in keeping with the White House and Trump administration position. Meanwhile, US envoys abroad have been instructed by the State Department via diplomatic cable to “sidestep questions” about what it would take for the US to reenter the Paris Accord.
At the time of this writing, the entirety of the White House’s position on the environment and climate change is this passage: “Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”
The sum total of this position and these policies on climate change, or lack thereof, is “reckless and indefensible,” as Al Gore told Futurism recently. The bottom line is that the White House is, at best, mute on the issue of climate change.