The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.