Politics

The White House’s Plan for Climate Research Is Scaring Scientists

President Donald Trump's administration is conducting an extensive review of research published by EPA scientists, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. 

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The review process pertains to existing data, studies, and information on the EPA website, transition team EPA communications director Doug Ericksen told the AP.

"We're taking a look at everything on a case-by-case basis, including the web page and whether climate stuff will be taken down," Erickson told AP. "Obviously with a new administration coming in, the transition time, we'll be taking a look at the web pages and the Facebook pages and everything else involved here at EPA."

Michale Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, believes this is a sign of things to come. "This seems to be a logical continuation of Trump’s efforts to silence government researchers whose research might be perceived as inconvenient to the fossil fuel industry interests that are running the show now," he told ATTN:.

The restrictions come days after the White House instituted a temporary freeze on EPA grants and contract, and ordered agency staff to cease posting on social media and speaking with the press. ​As of yet, there is no mandate to implement a political review process on new EPA work once the freeze is lifted, Ericksen said.

The Trump transition team's press office did not respond to ATTN:'s request for comment.

Scientists are speaking up.

Former EPA agency staffers told AP that this week's restrictions spanned beyond what they experienced under past Republican and Democratic administrations.

Speaking with Reuters, two unnamed EPA employees said they received an administration memo on Tuesday that instructed the agency's communications officials to remove climate change pages from the EPA website.

"If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear," one of the EPA sources told Reuters. The page remains live at the time of writing.

The Trump team's moves stand in stark contrast to the EPA scientific integrity policy President Barack Obama implemented in 2012.

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The policy is outlined in a 14-page document viewable (at least for the time being) on the agency's official website. From the EPA (emphasis ours):

"Science is the backbone of the EPA’s decision-making. The Agency’s ability to pursue its mission to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science on which it relies. The environmental policies, decisions, guidance, and regulations that impact the lives of all Americans every day must be grounded, at a most fundamental level, in sound, high quality science. When dealing with science, it is the responsibility of every EPA employee to conduct, utilize, and communicate science with honesty, integrity, and transparency, both within and outside the Agency. To operate an effective science and regulatory agency like the EPA, it is also essential that political or other officials not suppress or alter scientific findings."

Trump is not the first president to find himself at odds with scientists.

The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated former President George W. Bush administration for alleged political interference with government climate science, including censoring and altering federal scientific research. "The evidence before the committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming," the Committee wrote in a December 2007 report.