An Environmental Protection Agency memo sent to top officials implored the agency to build up support for its agenda by tying its regulatory agenda to the “personal worries” of Americans.
“Polar ice caps and the polar bears have become the climate change ‘mascots,’ if you will, and personify the challenges we have in making this issue real for many Americans,” reads a memo sent around to top agency officials in March 2009, just months after President Barack Obama took office.
“Most Americans will never see a polar ice cap, nor will most have the chance to see a polar bear in its natural habitat,” the memo reads. “Therefore, it is easy to detach from the seriousness of this issue. Unfortunately, climate change in the abstract is an increasingly — and consistently — unpersuasive argument to make.”
“However, if we shift from making this about the polar caps and about our neighbor with respiratory illness we can potentially bring this issue home to many Americans,” the memo adds. “There will be many opportunities to discuss climate-related efforts this year. As we do so, we must allow the human health argument to take center stage.”
The EPA memo even says to use people’s children as a way to build up support for their efforts to fight global warming and ramp up clean air and water regulations.
“This justifies our work at the most base level. By revitalizing our own Children’s Health Office, leading the global charge on this issue, and highlighting the children’s health dimension to all of our major initiatives — we will also make this issue real for many Americans who otherwise would oppose many of our regulatory actions,” the memo reads.
The EPA memos were obtained by Chris Horner, attorney and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, through a Freedom of Information Act request. Horner found the memo in a trove of emails to former EPA chief Lisa Jackson’s secret email account, which used the alias “Richard Windsor.”
“What this memo shows is the recognition that EPA needed to move its global warming campaign away from the failed global model of discredited Big Green pressure groups and their icons,” Horner told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“In it, we see the birth of the breathtakingly disingenuous ‘shift from making this about the polar caps [to] about our neighbor with respiratory illness,'” Horner said. It also shows the conviction that if they yell ‘clean air’ and ‘children’ enough, they, the media and the green groups will get their way.”
The memo was circulated as federal lawmakers were debating cap-and-trade legislation during Obama’s first term in office. A cap-and-trade bill passed out of the House in June 2009, but was eventually defeated in the Senate after opponents successfully tied the effort to a de facto energy tax.
Since this defeat, however, the Obama administration has been keen on focusing on the public health benefits of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Near the end of 2009, the EPA found that greenhouse gases posed a threat to public health because they cause global warming. But greenhouse gases don’t directly impact public health, so the EPA relied on other ways to connect the dots.
When the EPA released the first-ever regulations on greenhouse gas tailpipe emissions in 2012, the agency touted the rule’s public health benefits, resulting from reduced amounts of traditional air pollutants coming from tailpipes.
More recently, the EPA said rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants would result in fewer asthma attacks, especially in children. But these alleged public health benefits come from reducing smog and other air pollutants, not carbon dioxide.
“Asthma disproportionately affects African-American kids,” said current EPA chief Gina McCarthy. “In just the first year these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks— and those numbers go up from there.”
“These standards are also doing more than to just address public health. By the time these standards are fully in place in 2030, the average household will also save $8 a month on electricity and create thousands of jobs that can’t be shipped overseas,” McCarthy said.
The memo also mentions convincing “unchurched” Americans who belong to other activist groups to support fighting global warming.
“For many, environmental protection is about the caribou, polar bears, and sea otters,” reads the memo. “While our work certainly impacts all of these creatures, it obviously does not reflect our day-to-day work. It is important for us to change this perception, particularly among those who are critically impacted by [environmental justice] issues — but are otherwise ‘unchurched.’ (By unchurched, I mean they are not affiliated with a group or effort that would self-identify as EJ or environmentalist.)”
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