EPA has engaged in a number of activities intended to cast doubt on the clear science of climate change. This could help a decades-long effort by some in the fossil fuel industry to discredit climate science and prevent government action on climate change.
In spite of overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that human-caused climate change is a serious threat that requires immediate action, the Trump EPA has repeatedly cast doubt on climate science.
In the administration’s first months, EPA hid information about climate science that it previously publicized on its website, while it left increasingly out-of-date information for visitors to search in archived web pages.
In 2018 EPA’s Office of Public Affairs sent an email to staff in the agency’s program offices and 10 regional offices directing staff to promote “consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts.” But the email also provided climate-denying talking points, including:
- “Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”
- “While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”
These statements are only arguably true in a narrow, technical sense. They are misleading and ignore the broad scientific consensus about human-caused climate change. Climate experts – including the federal government in 2017 – have said that “it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Scientists can estimate with increasing accuracy just how much we are affecting the climate.
If EPA staff rely on these “talking points” with stakeholders and the public, then the public will be misled as to the “precision” of the current state of climate science and the existence of “clear gaps” in the science.
These talking points are representative of a pattern with then-Administrator Pruitt’s public statements about climate change. During his tenure, Pruitt wondered whether a warming climate is “necessarily is a bad thing,” and questioned science’s ability to measure “with precision” how humans affect the climate.
In elevating doubts about climate science, the Trump administration is preventing EPA from relying on the best available science and delaying effective action on climate change for years to come.
For more information on how EPA is casting doubt on climate change science, please see:
- Appointing a Climate Change Skeptic to EPA’s Advisory Committee
- Potential Presidential Committee on Climate Security
This post was edited for clarity on Jan. 28, 2020.