Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to stop using the term “climate change” in their work and to refer to it instead as “weather extremes”, according to a string of emails obtained by the Guardian.
The emails, dated from earlier in 2017, were sent internally to staffers at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a small agency at the USDA that’s tasked with maintaining the health of US soil, air, and water for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners.
Needless to say, the Trump administration is against the scientific consensus on human-driven climate change. This revision of language by the federal agency is being seen as an attempt to alter the way that climate change is framed, following the paradigm shift brought by the new administration. Although it's worth noting, a USDA spokesperson told Gizmodo that the agency was not put under any explicit pressure from the administration to change its stance on climate change.
President Trump’s top pick to take over the position of chief scientist at the USDA is Sam Clovis. Unfortunately, this guy has never been a scientist or ever had much to do with science at all. In a 2014 radio interview, Clovis said he was “extremely skeptical” about climate change, adding that “a lot of the science is junk science.”
Emails from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health, said her staff should “avoid” the term “climate change” and say “weather extremes” instead. Additionally, they should switch the phrase “climate change adaption” to “resilience to weather extremes”. Instead of saying “reduce greenhouse gases”, staff were advised to say “build soil organic matter and increase nutrient use efficiency.”
Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief for programs at the NRCS, sent an email four days after Trump’s inauguration saying: “It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch.”
In response to these changes, employees have said “we would prefer to keep the language as is” as they want to maintain the “scientific integrity of the work”.
You can see all 65 pages of the emails over at the Guardian.
Riding on from the anti-climate change rhetoric of the current US presidency, other federal departments and agencies have changed their official stance on anthropogenic climate change. In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed the term “science” from its mission statement. Their website has also purged huge swathes of their scientific data on climate change – not ideal for an agency whose job it is to protect the environment and human health.