Tuesday, August 08, 2017

USDA Staff Were Coached Not to Say ‘Climate Change,’ Emails Show

New messaging guidance encourages self-censorship, telling Agriculture Department conservation staff to use ‘weather extremes’ instead.

Farmers who have dealt with droughts and damaging storms know the risks of climate change. Under the Trump administration, federal farm conservation staff have been coached not to use the term. (Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
Four days after President Donald Trump took the oath of office, an official at the Department of Agriculture sent an email, the first in a string of messages signaling to staff that the term "climate change" could soon be erased from the agency's vocabulary.

"It has become clear one of the previous administration's priorities is not consistent with that of the incoming administration," wrote Jimmy Bramblett, a deputy chief in the agency's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  "Namely, that priority is climate change.  Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the Executive Branch."

Over the course of the next six months, Bramblett and other officials sent emails to staff, coaching them to avoid using the term "climate change" and instead use the term "weather extremes."  In one email a department head suggested that the agency "remove or significantly alter" an internal survey and report in which staff discussed whether climate change is "human induced."

"It's clear that Trump's political agenda is blocking out any science that NRCS is responsible for," said Meg Townsend, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, which obtained the emails.  "That can affect not just the day-to-day jobs of the agency staff, but the food we eat and the air we breathe."

The emails, released to the center last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, come as farmers are increasingly coping with the effects of climate change.  Farmers, whether doubtful of climate change or not, often use the terms "weather volatility" or "extremes," taking their cues from industry groups.  The agency now appears to be following along—a move that worries agricultural scientists who say the fuzzy terminology not only could make communicating climate-related risks more difficult, but also could have a chilling effect on research.

Read more at USDA Staff Were Coached Not to Say ‘Climate Change,’ Emails Show

No comments:

Post a Comment