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Four months after Donald Trump took office, the agency replaced its “climate change” page with an update message saying the site was being changed to “reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump.” But now even the promise of an update is gone, a new report from the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) discovered Thursday.
Instead, if you type epa.gov/climatechange into your web browser, you get a rather ironic error message reading, “We want to hep you find what you are looking for.”
A screenshot of the current EPA climate change page.EPA
“It’s an embarrassment. It is a ghost page,” Obama-era EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck told The Guardian. “It’s a bit like Amazon not allowing the public to order books via its website – it’s that fundamental. There’s no other issue at the EPA more important than climate change; it affects air, water, health and whether large parts of the world will survive.”
The EDGI report said that the changes occurred between 5:12 p.m. Oct. 16 and 3:04 a.m. Oct. 17. In addition to changing the main text of the page, the website also replaced a link to a snapshot of the EPA’s Obama-era climate change page with a snapshot of the EPA’s Obama-era main page and deleted a link to a press release explaining the changes. In September, the EPA also removed a link on the page to the EPA’s searchable archive and technical support request form.
“The cumulative effect of removing these links from the splash page is the substantial reduction of access to EPA’s historical public information about climate change,” the EDGI report said.
A screenshot of the EPA climate change page before (left and after (right) the most recent changesEDGI
The website changes are in keeping with a Trump administration tradition of scrubbing climate information from government websites.
Motherboard offered a brief history:
This is far from the first time that the Trump administration has removed information relating to climate change and environmental hazards. Shortly after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, all references to climate change were removed from the White House website. In April of that year, the Department of the Interior all references to climate change from its public-facing website. The Federal Emergency Management Agency does not even mention climate change in its five year plan released earlier this year.
Former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was famously hostile to climate science and wanted to stage a televised debate on the topic. One anonymous EPA official speculated to The Guardian that the changes might reflect the priorities of his replacement, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.
“Wheeler has been somewhat meticulously going through the mess Pruitt left behind and I think is finally getting to the place of making some decisions on stuff,” the official said. “I’ve been surprised that we are still even talking about climate change and that there are still people nominally assigned to that beat in the air office.”
Wheeler has continued with Pruitt’s efforts to deregulate everything from power plant emissions to fuel efficiency standards and has said that “federal regulations are not necessary to drive greenhouse gas reductions,” The Guardian reported.
Correction: This post has been updated to provide greater clarity regarding the nature of changes to the EPA’s climate change webpage.