Things aren’t looking good for climate change content on the EPA’s website
Information about climate change on the website for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been missing for over a year, with no indication that plans are in the works to reverse the situation, according to watchdog groups and advocates.
A section of the site relating to climate change that has been under an update notice since April 2017 now lacks even that, the Guardian reported this week. Instead of information pertaining to climate change and global warming, the site is now largely blank.
For a lengthy period of time following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the page indicated that the section was being updated to reflect the current administration’s priorities, something the EPA corroborated to ThinkProgress earlier this year. But, according to the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), this week that changed, and the page is now completely defunct.
“We want to help you find what you are looking for,” reads the current page, with a link to a screenshot from January 19, 2017, just prior to Trump’s inauguration.
The original page offered a blunt assessment of climate change and explained that human activity is directly linked to global warming, as climate scientists have indicated for years. “What climate change effects are we already seeing?” the page asked, linking to a section detailing rising temperatures, erratic snow and rainfall, and other abrupt shifts.
These changes, the website noted, are all linked to “rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, caused by human activities.”
In a statement reacting to the ongoing absence of the page, Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said the situation is alarming — but also in keeping with the tenure of acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, who took over from Scott Pruitt a few months ago.
“Andrew Wheeler, acting chief of the agency, was a longtime lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry before he joined President Trump’s anti-science, anti-public-health administration,” said Cook on Friday. “Why would he want an EPA website packed with irrefutable data detailing how that industry is a leading driver behind dirty air, increases in childhood asthma and premature death, wildfires and hurricanes from hell, rising sea levels, drought and famine?”
Pruitt, a controversial figure dogged by scandals, was largely viewed as inaccessible to the media and unpopular even within the Trump administration. Wheeler, by contrast, has been cast in a rosier light, but climate advocates have argued the former coal lobbyist is largely more of the same, something they say the ongoing erasure of climate change underscores.
“Wheeler has been somewhat meticulously going through the mess Pruitt left behind and I think is finally getting to the place of making some decisions on stuff,” an anonymous senior EPA official told the Guardian when asked about the agency’s blank climate change website section.
In addition to overseeing the mass rollback of environmental regulations, the Trump administration has consistently worked to downplay and erase references to climate change across agencies. In April, EDGI reported that the EPA’s International Cooperation website was missing pages addressing global environmental issues and priorities.
That finding continued a trend — an earlier January 2018 report from the initiative found that the Trump administration has removed or buried thousands of government websites and sections relating to climate change.
Last spring, the National Park Service released a report highlighting the risks climate change poses to 118 coastal national park sites. The report was only published after Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting found that Park Service officials “deleted every mention of humans’ role in causing climate change” in the drafts of the original report.