The Environmental Protection Agency has stopped updating its websites with climate change information, instead leaving site visitors with error messages and blank pages.
In April 2017, three months after noted climate-change skeptic Donald Trump took office, the EPA removed its climate change subdomains from public access. Overall, at least 80 URLs, including epa.gov/climatechange, were shut down. The federal agency claimed the move was only temporary, and that the sites were “being updated” to reflect the new priorities of the agency under the new leadership of President Trump and then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has since resigned in the midst of ethics scandals.
“The process, which involves updating language to reflect the approach of new leadership, is intended to ensure that the public can use the website to understand the agency’s current efforts,” a news release issued by the agency read at the time.
But a report released last week by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, a nonprofit organization that analyzes federal environmental data, showed that in October the EPA modified the splash page and removed statements that said the website was under construction. Now the page simply states: “We want to help you find what you are looking for.”
Along with discontinuing any potential updates to the climate change sites, the EPA removed links to its searchable web archive for any past information on the subject, as well as a link to its technical support request form.
The Trump administration has made it clear that the environment is not a top priority, even though the president has said that he has a “natural instinct for science” that informed his understanding of climate change. Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration had all references to climate change removed from the White House website.
Trump dismissed an October report by a group of international climate scientists that warned that the effects of climate change might become irreversible by 2024, saying, “You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda.”
Pruitt, Trump’s first pick to lead the EPA, notoriously suggested that global warming could benefit humans. “We know humans have most flourished during times of warming trends,” Pruitt said earlier this year before he was forced to resign amid such ethics violations as using his office to help his wife get a Chick-fil-A franchise and spending $43,000 to soundproof a phone booth in his government office.
Pruitt’s replacement, Andrew Wheeler, was one of the biggest coal lobbyists in Washington and sued the EPA 14 times against pollution restrictions while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general.
The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative said that the “cumulative effect of removing” these pages and URL links is “substantial reduction of access to the EPA’s historical public information about climate change.”