Emails Show USDA Staff Told to 'Avoid' Term 'Climate Change' Under Trump

Xavier Trudeau
Août 8, 2017

Moebius-Clune wrote that the agency "won't change the modeling, just how we talk about it-there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them". Likewise, the preferred phrasing for "climate change adaption" is now "resilience to weather extremes".

Basically, any reference to climate change or Carbon dioxide is a no-no. The first email obtained by the Guardian, sent by NRCS Deputy Chief for Programs Jimmy Bramblett on January 24, advised of the new administration's "shift in perspective" with regard to climate change. Specifically, the staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) were told to avoid using the phrase "climate change", and were instructed to alter various phrases that acknowledge the effects of man-made climate change.

Nor, I should note, does it protect your head very well from climate-related "weather extremes," like 2012's Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast or 2013's Supertyphoon Haiyan in the Philippines, both of which caused devastating damage and were likely made worse by climate change. A colleague advises that the issue be determined in a phone call. Another employee, in response to the proposed word changes, said they'd "prefer to keep the language as is", noting the importance of "maintaining the 'scientific integrity of the work.'" But the employee did also note that the documents in discussion were meant for the "executive committee" and not public consumption.

The USDA has been contacted for comment. Further, the changes appear to be a preemptive measure that anticipated the Trump administration's position on climate change.

In May, President Donald Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, an worldwide accord signed by former President Barack Obama and the vast majority of the world's nations pledging to take aggressive action towards reducing carbon footprints.

We've already seen the Trump administration remove the climate change section of the EPA's website and, more importantly, pull the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

"These records reveal Trump's active censorship of science in the name of his political agenda", said Meg Townsend, open government attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. The idea that staffers at various government agencies would be encouraged to pretend climate change doesn't exist under Trump isn't surprising, but it is deeply upsetting.

There have been other signs of a shift from climate change within the administration.

United States agriculture is a major source of heat-trapping gases, with 15% of the country's emissions deriving from farming practices. Trump's nominee for chief USDA scientist, meanwhile, is not a scientist, dismisses climate science, and has referred to progressives as "race traitors".

Oliver Milman is a news reporter for Guardian Australia based in Melbourne.

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