Tomorrow, it will have been one year since the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) climate change website was taken offline. And all signs are pointing toward it never coming back under the Trump administration.
On April 28, 2017, visitors who arrived at the EPA’s climate website were redirected to a page with this:
Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt. If you’re looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.
Nearly a year later, the redirect is still up. Frankly, I wouldn’t be shocked if it lasts until the end of the Trump presidency, because the priorities of the administration have been clear for a while now. They’re not about sharing accurate science, or acknowledging the clear and present danger climate change poses.
The Trump administration has tightly controlled the flow of information to the public, and the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure has exemplified that. Just this week, the press wasn’t invited to an event on a recent rule proposal falsely billed as being about “transparency” in science, and was given no heads up Pruitt was going to Georgia to make an inaccurate announcement that burning wood is carbon neutral. On Thursday, Pruitt’s staff formed a human shield to insulate him from questions during his long day on Capitol Hill.
The EPA has also altered plenty of other pages across its sites—here’s an exhaustive list from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative—and some climate pages have come back, albeit missing the words “climate change.” It’s totally within Pruitt and his appointees’ right to do so. But the alterations clearly indicate science and disadvantaged groups are being sidelined. Even rank and file employees are being told not to talk about climate change.
But equally germane—and in some ways, more consequential—to the climate site’s disappearance is the Trump administration’s focus on prolonging the carbon bubble as long as possible. That bubble is just like the housing, tech, or student loan bubbles you’ve surely read about, all created by wildly overvalued assets.
In the case of carbon bubble, it’s fossil fuels that are overvalued because there’s no price on all the carbon pollution our use of them is adding to the atmosphere. That will change because it has to, and some states and countries are already trying to make it happen by imposing carbon taxes or creating a market to trade emissions. It’s really just a question of when these efforts become mainstream, and how fast a price on carbon changes the energy system underpinning our economy.
In the meantime, the Trump administration is doing everything possible to let investors get the most bang for their buck. What the administration has labeled “energy dominance” is about allowing the fossil fuel industry to extract as much oil, gas, and coal as possible from American soil and allowing the automotive, power, and other industries that rely on those fuels to burn as much as possible on the cheap.
The administration ignores the fact that the monumental costs of adapting to climate change only increase the more fossil fuels we burn. Cities are already suing oil companies for reparations for current and future damage. The ways in which climate change is disrupting other environmental problems is becoming clearer.
All of which brings us back to the EPA’s climate change site. Climate change is bad, and it’s going to get worse if we don’t curtail carbon emissions. The site said as much, in factually-accurate terms and citing some of the world’s leading researchers. Which is fundamentally at odds with the administration’s priorities, so of course it was going to be deleted.
It’s also why bringing it back is nye impossible. If the site reappears with no changes, it stands as a testament to how full of shit the administration is. If it comes back with shoddy research, no mentions to climate change, or otherwise altered the content, it will be met with well-deserved outrage inside and outside the agency.
We’ve reached out to the EPA for comment, and will update this post if and when we hear back.
For now, it seems best option for Pruitt and co. is to leave climate change sitting behind the curtain, pushed further and further away with each wave of anti-environment actions the EPA takes, lies coming from Scott Pruitt’s mouth, and scandals that follow him wherever he goes.
Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow worked on the page when he was at EPA, and he wrote at the time of its removal that it “signifies a declaration of war on climate science by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.”
But it’s about much more than that. It’s a war on everyone not rich enough to adapt to a toasty present and a blisteringly hot future.