(Opinion) EPA.gov is Dangerously Silent on Climate Change

Former President Obama dragged climate change into the spotlight as much as he could in the face of an uncooperative Congress. During his administration, the EPA disseminated extensive information about the causes and dangers of climate change, including through its website. It was accurate and sobering, but more, it was a hopeful sign. The United States government was finally taking the threat of climate change seriously.

Then Trump won the 2016 election. Now, actually navigating to the EPA’s page about climate change has become byzantine. The easiest way I found was to use the dropdown menu and navigate to Air Topics, since the topic of Climate Change has been removed completely, then to Greenhouse Gasses, before we finally see a link to the climate change page. Sadly, this leads to a message of the website being updated because, “content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed.” It helpfully has a link to the previous administration’s climate change page, but we already know how Obama and his appointees viewed the issue. We’re here to see what Trump and his EPA leader, Administrator Scott Pruitt, think. Helpfully, they’ve added a link to a release from their public affairs office.

The process, it states, “which involves updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership, is intended to ensure that the public can use the website to understand the agency’s current efforts.”

Well, considering the utter removal of climate change as a topic, their efforts are clear. For whatever reason, they’ve chosen to move away from combating the greatest threat to mankind in the modern world. Yet still we do not have a statement about climate change, greenhouse gases, or emissions. Just a vague statement about changing priorities and another link, a release that outlines the agency’s direction in complying with Trump’s Execute Order on Energy Independence. The EO seeks to rollback restriction put in place to limit damage to the environment in the guise of freeing American markets from burdensome regulations. We’re two pages through the website, four months into the administration, and not a single definitive word about climate change to be found from the Environmental Protection Agency. What we do have, however, is Administrator Pruitt’s announcement of his Back-to-Basics Agenda. What is this exactly?

Well, apparently, it is Pruitt’s promise to refocus the EPA on its intended mission, returning power to states and creating an environment receptive to job growth. Yes, according to the head of the EPA, apparently the “E” was metaphorical and not about the actual environment. Alright, so what does the agenda actually do? Well, it is focused on “the three E’s”: Environment, Economy, and Engagement. These are expanded on in single sentence statements, promising to protect the environment, ensure sensible regulations that allow for job growth, and to engage with state and local partners.

That is… worryingly vague. No other information is given, except for a small recap of a speaking event from April 13th, where Pruitt spoke with coal miners about ‘unfair’ burdens placed on the industry. The coal industry has been in decline for decades, and it isn’t because of overregulation. Better options in renewable energies, along with increasingly difficult methods of extraction, and an increase in natural gas production, have been bleeding coal in recent years. But Pruitt and Trump keep assuring the industry that a revitalization is coming, despite all evidence to the contrary. Coal employs very few actual workers, but it is such a focus of the new Administrator that the only other information on the EPA page is a list of speaking events that is exactly two engagements long. The first is the speech at the Harvey Mine in Pennsylvania, and another is a week later in Missouri. The page promises more events and announcement about the Agenda in the coming weeks. The second event was scheduled for April 20th, over a month ago.

The website is bare bones and lacklustre. This is not new, as Katie Grzesiak has already noted. To find any actual stance on climate change, one must look other than the website that purports to promote the vast knowledge of the agency tasked with preserving the environment. As always when it comes to this administration, the best sources are various statements made to the media. Pruitt insisted that human causes were impossible to determine and that we shouldn’t act based on the mountains of evidence already available, but rather continue our current path while more research is done. History does not agree with him, as I’ve already said. Pruitt stated that he did not believe CO2 to be a significant contributor to global warming, even though geological experts point to a well documented event in Earth’s history that says otherwise.

He further suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency might not actually be responsible in regulating carbon dioxide emissions. He did not suggest what other agency whose responsibilities he thought monitoring and regulating an environmental pollutant fell under.

Pruitt also repeatedly attacked the groundbreaking Paris Agreement, with his complaints being that America was expected to change its emissions immediately, while China and India were given a grace period. He insisted these constituted an approach that was not “America First,” though it is unclear if he is aware the climate is not divided by nationally boundaries, or that India and China, among others, were given those years to industrialize as America had decades earlier.

The EPA director has recently assured the people that the president believes in climate change. In a defense of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement, he stated it was about making sure the deal was good for America, not denying climate change. Strange, considering that as the head of the agency that ostensibly is supposed to be at the forefront of efforts to combat climate change, the topic has been scrubbed from the agency’s website, Pruitt’s public statements have been dodgy and misinformed, and he has promised impossible dreams to people that would require actions directly contradictory to the goal of reducing global emissions. Trump, Pruitt, and their EPA have wholly abandoned the field in the most important fight of our times.

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