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Climate change is disappearing from government websites — and from research, too.

Climate change is disappearing from government websites — and from research, too.

Climate change is disappearing from government websites — and from research, too.

 GUILLAUME SOUVANT/Getty Images

The EPA’s climate change webpage was taken down for revisions in April to “reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.” And 214 days later, the page — which explained the basics of climate science and how it affects us — is still down.

Though an archived version remains, it is missing pages, PDFs, and entire sections, such as the Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change.

It’s not just the EPA: Mentions of climate change have disappeared from government websites across the board, from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Transportation.

And now, it’s disappearing from science itself. An NPR report found that scientists have begun omitting the term “climate change” from public summaries of their research. National Science Foundation grants on the topic have dropped 40 percent this year. Meanwhile, euphemisms like “extreme weather” and “environmental change” appear to be on the rise.

Given President Trump’s open hostility to climate science, it’s not exactly surprising that his administration has ushered in an era of self-censorship, where agency staffers and scientists tip-toe around the subject to protect their funding and research. But the pace and scale of that change over the past year is shocking.

Source: Grist

LINK: https://grist.org/briefly/california-is-preparing-for-a-weekend-of-wintertime-wildfires/

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Big Brother

The EPA hired a ‘war room’-style media monitoring company.

Because that’s not weird or hostile at all.

As Mother Jones reported Friday, the EPA signed a $120,000 contract (using taxpayer money) with the opposition research firm Definers Corp. earlier this month.

Definers brings hawkish political strategies to the public relations services it provides to corporations and nonprofits. “At the heart of the Definers Public Affairs’ system is our information operation — our media monitoring and rapid response mechanism known as the War Room,” the company advertises. “A War Room offers the flexibility and dynamism necessary for robust intelligence gathering.”

Not only does the company monitor news coverage, it also claims to “build and influence media narratives, move public opinion and provide powerful ammunition for your public relations and government affairs efforts.”

Definers has deep Republican ties. Its current president, Joe Pounder, was previously research director for the Republican National Committee. Its founder, Matt Rhoades, led Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012. After that campaign, Rhoades launched America Rising, which the Wall Street Journal called “the unofficial research arm of the Republican Party.”

EPA spokesperson Nancy Grantham told Mother Jones, “The Definers contract is for media monitoring/newsclip compilation.”

Sounds like EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s plan to sway public opinion by speaking almost exclusively to right-wing media wasn’t working out as he’d hoped.

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Industry-friendly

Trump’s pick to head chemical safety at the EPA is no longer in the running.

Michael L. Dourson faced bipartisan opposition from senators because of his close ties to the chemical industry.

Emails obtained by the New York Times from Greenpeace show hundreds of pages of correspondence between Dourson and individual chemical companies whose products were up for review by the EPA. Plus, Dourson founded a consulting firm in 1995 that produced complimentary studies for chemical companies in exchange for payment.

Dourson also recently worked to defend a carcinogen called trichloroethylene that’s currently up for EPA review. As head of the chemical safety division, Dourson would have made the final call on the decision.

Two Republican senators from North Carolina, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, announced they would not support Dourson’s nomination in October. “With his record and our state’s history of contamination … I am not confident he is the best choice for our country,” Burr said in a statement.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, also said she was leaning against Dourson.

Dourson withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday, but he was already working as a senior adviser to the agency while his confirmation was pending. It’s unclear whether he will continue to do so.


scorched earth

One-third of forests aren’t growing back after wildfires.

Forests in the American West are having a harder time recovering from wildfires because of (what else?) climate change, according to new research published in Ecology Letters.

Researchers measured the growth of seedlings in 1,500 wildfire-scorched areas in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Across the board, they found “significant decreases” in tree regeneration, a benchmark for forest resilience. In one-third of the sites, researchers found zero seedlings.

The warmest, driest forests were hit especially hard.

“Seedlings are more sensitive to warm, dry conditions than mature trees, so if the right conditions don’t exist within a few years following a wildfire, tree seedlings may not establish,” said Philip Higuera, a coauthor of the study.

Earlier this month, a separate study found that ponderosa pine and pinyon forests in the West are becoming less resilient due to droughts and warmer temperatures. Researchers told the New York Times that as trees disappear, some forests could shift to entirely different ecosystems, like grasslands or shrublands.

You’d think the rapid reconfiguration of entire ecosystems would really light a fire under us to deal with climate change, wouldn’t you?


de-newable energy

The Republican tax bill could lead to major job losses across the U.S. renewable industry.

Federal tax credits are essential to driving growth in the United States’ wind and solar energy industries. Those credits, which were first introduced in 1992 and only stabilized in 2015, are now on the chopping block.

The government has a long history of subsidizing major industries, from food to fossil fuels. The renewable energy tax credits were supposed to apply through the year 2020, but the GOP tax bill (both the House and the Senate versions) suggests modifying provisions that were key to driving growth in the industry. That could seriously undermine future investment in solar and wind projects, as well as jeopardize existing projects that rely on credits for energy they produce.

And reneging on the 2015 deal could result in significant job losses, too. The current House version of the tax bill would eliminate adjustments to inflation and accelerate the phase-down schedule of federal tax credits, putting 60,000 wind industry jobs at risk.

The House tax bill also would have terminated tax credits for electric vehicles and wind production, but the final compromise will keep those tax breaks, Bloomberg reports.

It’s still unclear what combination of the House and Senate bills will Frankenstein its way to President Trump’s desk, but it’s not looking good for the industry that has created jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.

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