If you were thinking of preparing for Saturday’s People’s Climate March by brushing up on a few climate science facts at the Environmental Protection Agency’s comprehensive website, forget about it.
On Friday evening, just ahead of the march that is expected to draw tens of thousands to the nation’s capital, the EPA scrubbed its site of key pages on climate science. Apparently, the website’s facts on the causes of climate change didn’t jibe with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s “alternative facts” on the issue.
One of the first pages to be axed explained former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Visitors to the EPA’s site are now treated to—you guessed it—a photo of Donald Trump signing an executive order to roll back the plan’s environmental regulations on power plants and other steps to mitigate climate change.
In a statement explaining the decision, the EPA stated that EPA.gov “is undergoing changes that reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt. The process, 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.”
But understanding the “agency’s current efforts” shouldn’t be too difficult, considering that in March Pruitt said he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a major driver of climate change, contradicting practically every climate scientist in the world.
EPA Associate Administrator for Public Affairs J.P. Freire explained the scrubbing by saying, “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
The EPA’s statement also borrowed from Trump’s playbook on gaslighting by referring to Obama’s environmental regulations as the “so-called Clean Power Plan.”
The Washington Post confirmed that Pruitt approved the changes to the agency’s website.
The newspaper also noted that another page containing two decades of research on climate change (called “global warming” when the page was launched in 1997) also was removed and replaced with a message stating, “This page is being updated.” The EPA did provide a snapshot of what the site looked like on Jan. 19, the day before Trump took office 100 days ago:
David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Program, was one of the first observers to spot the changes:
There is no indication yet what type of new information will be posted to reflect the EPA’s “current efforts,” but judging from past misleading statements by Trump and Pruitt, it could very well be that information is gleaned from sources like the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, which as CNN noted played an important role in Trump’s transition into the White House.
Trump has cited in the past a Heritage study that claims the costs for the U.S. of complying with the Paris climate agreement are too high, and the benefits are too low. As the World Resources Institute noted, that Heritage study provided no credible estimates of climate action costs and benefits. In other words, it was based on alternative facts. Which is probably what we can expect for the EPA’s forthcoming website changes.