Climate Change Data Censored Under Trump Administration

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Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 6:00 pm | Updated: 10:23 am, Wed Jan 17, 2018.

A new report released by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) reveals how the Trump administration is systematically scrubbing information about climate change from numerous federal web sites, making it harder for the public to access years of taxpayer-funded scientific and policy research on the topic.

Download the full report at: http://100days.envirodatagov.org

EDGI’s website monitoring working group, which monitors changes to tens of thousands of federal web pages relating to environment, climate, and energy, describes "a clear pattern of censorship of climate change information and resources," according to the report. Monitored sites include those of the EPA, DOE, NASA, NOAA, and OSHA, among others.

"While there is no evidence that any climate data have been removed, we document significant language shifts and loss of public access to information," the organization stated in a web post on Jan. 10.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Removal of information and key documents downplaying US involvement in international climate change efforts.
  • Systematic changes to language about climate change, such as replacement of “climate change” and “greenhouse gases” with vaguer terms such as “sustainability” and “emissions,” and removal of terms such as “clean energy.”
  • Widespread shifts deemphasizing renewable fuels as replacements for fossil fuels, and prioritization of job creation and economic growth.
  • Removal or significant de-emphasis of climate change information from many agencies’ websites, most notably the EPA.

The organization says these documented changes matter because they:

  • Make it harder for the public to access the results of years of scientific and policy research funded by their tax dollars.
  • Diminish our democratic institutions, such as notice-and-comment rulemaking, which depend on an informed public.
  • Can confuse the public if significant changes are not sufficiently justified.
  • Contribute to broader climate denialist efforts that obscure and cast doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change, hampering critically-important efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The report, Changing the Digital Climate: How Climate Change Web Content is Being Censored Under the Trump Administration, is the third installment of EDGI’s series of reports evaluating the environmental impacts of the first year of the Trump administration. It follows Part 1, The EPA Under Siege: An in-depth analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Part 2, Pursuing a Toxic Agenda: An examination of how the Trump administration’s actions increase toxic burdens on vulnerable communities.

Funded by Public Lab, with grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the EDGI is an international network of academics and non-profits addressing potential threats to federal environmental and energy policy, and to the scientific research infrastructure built to investigate, inform, and enforce them. The group is building online tools, events, and research networks to proactively archive public environmental data and ensure its continued public availability.

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