Energy

Enviros Freak Out After Gov’t Agency’s Website Alters Climate Change References

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Chris White Tech Reporter

Activists characterized a federal agency’s decision to scrape the term climate “change” from its website as a type of “cleansing,” even though the agency contends the alteration is minor.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Science changed a headline on its website from “Climate Change and Human Health,” to “Climate and Human Health,” according to a report Wednesday from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a nonprofit group that tracks what it calls threats to federal policy on environmental issues.

NIH’s website contained other minor changes. It replaced a menu tittle that read “Climate Change and Children’s Health” to “Climate and Children’s Health.” Activist groups believe the alterations are akin to a type of whitewashing of climate science.

“The cleansing continues,” David Doniger, an executive director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told reporters. “But they’re not going to be able to erase the science, or the truth, by scrubbing websites.”

Christine Flowers, the NIEHS director of communications, downplayed the changes, telling reporters Wednesday that the changes are mostly superficial and do not alter the content on the website.

“It’s a minor change to a title page,” Flowers said of one headline alteration, “but the information we provide remains the same. In fact, it’s been expanded.”

Federal agencies have come under fire since Trump became president for altering aspects of their websites. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, for example, reorganized content and downsized programs earlier this year that dealt with climate change and other environmental issues.

EPA officials took a climate page down in April to reflect President Donald Trump’s priorities. There are still several other web pages on the agency’s site regarding climate change, though they aren’t as prominently featured as during the Obama administration.

The agency is “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,” according to an EPA release in April.

Trump also began reducing the size of programs with the DOE that dealt with global warming. Nearly a dozen members of the Office of International Climate and Technology were released in June so the Trump administration could cut bloat from within the agency. The office was opened in 2010 to help allies across the world kick-start technology reducing greenhouse gasses.

Employees in the office are part of the so-called Clean Energy Ministerial, a small collective of polluting nations such as China and India. Their sole focus was to develop technology fighting man-made climate change.

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