Late Tuesday night, news broke that the Trump administration had ordered workers at the Environmental Protection Agency to remove the agency’s climate change information from its website, a move that stoked fears that the new administration would continue its antagonism towards science and fact.
By mid-morning Wednesday, InsideEPA reported that the climate information on the EPA’s website would be spared, at least for now. Other climate pages housed on federal websites have not been so lucky, however.
As of Wednesday, various pages mentioning climate change had been removed from the State Department website, including pages outlining the United States’ contribution to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, a page detailing America’s commitment to making climate data available for both local and international partners, the State Department’s Climate Action Report, and an overview of the Global Climate Change Initiative.
This is not the first time that the Trump administration has removed information left over from the previous administration about climate change: just minutes after Trump was sworn in as president on January 20, the new White House website — touting the Trump administration’s new policy priorities — went live without any mention of climate change.
These moves, however, are policy-oriented in nature, making them different from the kind of climate-related censorship some scientists have feared might permeate the Trump administration. The State Department’s Office of Global Change — which deals with international climate change issues — is still represented on the agency’s website, as is the Office of the Special Envoy for Climate Change. The pages that have been taken down all relate, in some way, to policies created and supported by the Obama administration.
While it’s normal practice for an incoming administration to take down certain webpages, or change websites to reflect a new policy focus, the change does little to ameliorate the fears of environmentalists, climate activists, and some lawmakers that the Trump administration wants to fundamentally reverse what has been the United States’ policy on international climate action for the past eight years. Trump has pledged to both cancel all future payments to the U.N. Green Climate Fund and pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement — a historic agreement that he falsely claims allows “foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use.”
Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson —the former CEO of Exxon who is likely to be confirmed by the Senate — said in his confirmation hearing that the United States should not lead on climate change if other countries are not willing to lead as well.
“I think it’s important to have a seat at the table, but I also think it’s important that others need to step forward and decide whether this is important to them or not,” Tillerson said. “If America is the only one willing to lead, then my conclusion is the rest of the world doesn’t think it’s important.”
Unlike his predecessor, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Tillerson does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change, falsely claiming that the scientific community does not know whether humans have been the primary factor in driving recent increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“Mr. Tillerson provide[d] insufficient reassurance that the United States would meet its commitment to the Paris climate accord,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who voted against Tillerson in committee, said in a statement before the vote. “He also refused to embrace the scientific view that climate change is now overwhelmingly driven by the burning of fossil fuels and failed to answer legitimate questions about Exxon’s support for climate denial groups during his tenure.”