February 21, 2018

US Federal Agency Censors Staff From Using the Term "Climate Change"

09 August 2017, 12:29 | Kara Nash

RapidEye Getty

RapidEye  Getty

The Guardian reported on Monday that officials at a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) office have been told not to use the term "climate change" any longer, substituting "weather extremes" for the hot-button phrase instead. The 65 emails included in the report, which range in dates from January to July, suggest the following swaps: "resilience to weather extremes/intense weather events: drought, heavy rain, spring ponding" instead of "climate change adaptation"; "build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency" instead of "reduce greenhouse gases"; and "build soil organic matter" instead of "sequester carbon". In an email, Moebius-Clune explains that a colleague from USDA's public affairs team advised her to "tamp down on discretionary messaging right now".

Apparently, U.S. Department of Agriculture staff are now supposed to say "weather extremes" instead. "Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch". "This was never the case and USDA interim procedures will allow complete, objective information for the new policy staff reviewing policy decisions".

In May, CBD launched a lawsuit against the administration "to uncover public records showing that federal employees have been censored from using words or phrases related to climate change in formal agency communications".

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Despite the emails, the agency says the incoming Trump administration did not request the language change. The president has started the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to scrap or amend various regulations aimed at cutting greenhouse gases, and has moved to open up more public land and waters to fossil fuel activity. Last week, he fired his communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, after only a week in the job, which was most notable for his expletive-ridden tirade at a New Yorker reporter.

The emails, dated from earlier in 2017, were sent internally to staffers at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a small agency at the USDA that's tasked with maintaining the health of USA soil, air, and water for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners.

On the NRCS website, climate change still remains a topic, unlike the EPA's site, which went through extensive changes regarding the issue when Trump took office. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has also disputed climate change evidence. A USDA plan to address the "far-reaching" impacts of climate change is still online. That nominee, Sam Clovis, has described climate change as "junk science" and "not proven".

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