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Climate Science Out, Coal in at EPA History Exhibit

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Climate Science Out, Coal in at EPA History Exhibit
Ahead of proposed changes to the EPA exhibit, officials have installed a large poster board that describes the agency's agenda under the Trump administration. It features a photo of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt meeting with coal miners in Pennsylvania. U.S. EPA

By Jessica Corbett

An U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) history exhibit that opened just before President Donald Trump took office is expected to lose some of its Obama-era climate displays, which could be replaced with a presentation on coal to reflect the policies of the current administration.

As the Trump administration has rolled back environmental regulations, and controversial EPA chief Scott Pruitt has publicly defended the deregulation and spread doubt about climate science, EPA staff members who worked on the exhibit tipped off Trump officials that some of its content conflicts with the administration's environmental policies, according to the Washington Post.


The one-room exhibit, The Story of the Environmental Protection Agency: Protecting Public Health and the Environment, located at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, is free and open to the public on weekdays. The exhibit documents the EPA's history since it was established in 1970 and, according to the agency's webpage, "explores how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency protects public health and the environment by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink, and land on which we live."

Ahead of the proposed changes to remove panels that celebrate climate achievements from the Obama years, those charged with overseeing the exhibit have already added some pro-coal propaganda, the Post reported:

In the meantime, to make sure the current administration is represented, EPA officials have installed a large poster board in the museum, highlighting the agency's new "back to basics" agenda. It features a picture of Pruitt shaking hands with coal miners at a Pennsylvania mine and promises "sensible regulations for economic growth."

When Pruitt met with the Pennsylvania miners in April, he touted his commitment to environmental deregulation, saying:

What better way to launch EPA's Back to Basics agenda than visiting the hard-working coal miners who help power America. The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around.

Yet according to the EPA—at least, pre-Pruitt—burning coal, gas and oil is the single-greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emission. The panels that are slated for removal include documented efforts to curb emissions. One details the 2009 endangerment finding, in which then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson concluded "that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger both the public health and the environment for current and future generations"—and therefore, the agency had a legal obligation to control emission.

Another panel describes the Paris climate agreement, a December 2015 treaty signed by nearly 200 nations that pledged to curb their emissions. The Post reported that the Paris treaty panel claims the "EPA is leading global efforts to address climate change." Trump provoked condemnation from world leaders, green groups and the American public when he announced the U.S. would withdraw from the historic climate accord the last month.

A spokesperson for the EPA also told the Post they would add a contentious former agency administrator to the exhibit:

Every past EPA administrator is mentioned in the museum, with one exception: Anne Gorsuch, mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, whose short and tumultuous tenure as President Ronald Reagan's first EPA administrator was marked by sharp budget cuts, rifts with career EPA employees and a scandal over the mismanagement of the Superfund cleanup program. She resigned in 1983.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

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Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

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