In case you haven’t seen them in the news, you may wish to be informed about a number of recent developments related to our shared ability to apply scientific knowledge and reasoning to our public polices, including those related to climate change. I’d also like to share a couple quick things you can do to show our leaders you are paying attention and you care. If you are reading this, you likely care enough to take 5 minutes of action this weekend (see bottom of this post).
THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE EPA’S DISAPPEARING CLIMATE CHANGE WEBSITES
Check out the EPA’s climate change website that your tax dollars are paying for: click here. For the past 20 years and up until April 28, the website was, well, much more informative. Here is a snapshot of what it looked like on January 19, 2017: click here. The information was all about scientific findings. For example, that 2016 was the warmest year on record and that scientists have linked that fact directly to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.
According to its archiving rules, EPA makes the January snapshot of the website available on its new “This page is being updated” page. However, it will not be updated and some critical links do not work. For example, as reported by The Washington Post, a popular youth-focused educational resource on climate change, comprising over 50 pages, is no longer accessible from either the archived snapshot page or the EPA’s main pages. In fact, it has become very difficult to find even using Google. As a public service, I’ll make it available here (as long as it remains in existence), so you can see exactly what scientific, EPA-developed content certain of our leaders evidently no longer want our kids to see: A Student’s Guide to Global Climate Change.
Here are excerpts from the EPA’s May 28 press release regarding the updating of its web-based materials related to climate change:
Do you smell something? It’s smoke, because this is the modern equivalent of burning books. Of course, the above signals the Administration’s intention to weaken or destroy the Clean Power Plan, our government’s current primary policy vehicle for complying with our commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. But what should these policy deliberations have to do with the availability of educational content your tax dollars paid the EPA to develop about the scientifically proven facts related to climate change? Nothing, that’s what.
For more information, see the website of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, a group that has been tracking changes to public science and environmental sites.
REMOVAL OF SCIENTISTS FROM THE EPA BOARD OF SCIENTIFIC COUNSELORS (BOSC)
On April 30, the EPA dismissed about half of an 18-member scientific board. The function of the board is to provide independent peer review of the work of EPA scientists to help ensure EPA policies are underpinned by sufficiently rigorous scientific findings. According to an agenda of an April meeting of the board, among the topics discussed was, “the growing need for information on, and understanding of, climate change and responses to its impacts.”
The board is filled primarily with academic scientists who may serve two 3-year terms, their tenure after the first term having almost always been renewed. On April 30, scientists up for renewal were informed they had been dismissed. J. P. Freire, a spokesman for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, said, “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” and indicated he would consider replacing the dismissed academic scientists with industry representatives whose very industries the EPA regulates.
More changes at the EPA are almost certainly in the works. This fall, over a third of a larger and more important 45-member EPA Science Advisory Board are up for renewal. As reported in the Washington Post, a budget for that panel slates it for an 84% cut for 2018, citing “an anticipated lower number of peer reviews.” (Of course, peer reviews happen to be the primary way scientists ensure the continued integrity of science.)
SUSPENSION OF SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARDS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, ordered on May 5 a freeze of the work of over 200 advisory boards, committees, and subcommittees that advise the Department on issues ranging from invasive species to threats and impacts from climate change. About a third of these bodies were reported to be science-based.
OPPORTUNITY FOR ACTION: EPA REQUEST FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS DUE MAY 15
On February 24, President Trump signed Executive Order 13777, directing federal agencies to setup a Regulatory Reform Task Force to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations about potential repeal, replacement, or modification to “alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens.” Pursuant to that Order, the EPA is seeking public comments as part of its Evaluation of Existing Regulations. If you think we should keep existing regulations (like the Clean Power Plan) intended to empower EPA to create incentives for the adoption of carbon-free energy technologies and enable us to participate meaningfully in the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, please take a couple minutes to make a comment. All comments must be submitted by next Monday, May 15.
How to submit a public comment:
- Go to this website: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190
- Next to “Evaluation of Existing Regulations,” click on “Comment Now!”
Your comments can be short – even one sentence. Here is what I submitted: JPG.
OPPORTUNITY FOR ACTION: TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DELIBERATIONS AND UPCOMING ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
The Trump Administration has reportedly been deliberating about whether to withdraw from or weaken the United States’ CO2 emission reduction targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. (Read more.) If you have been following any of the science-based content of rescuethatfrog.com, I hope you are convinced that withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement by the United States would be a disaster for all of us not exclusively interested in the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industry. Likewise, weakening our targets would be shameful and dangerous. The consensus among scientists is the Paris Climate Agreement is both our best hope and inadequate, as it is, to avert substantial environmental damage from global climate change. (Read more in the MIT Technology Review.)
Please consider taking a few minutes to write a letter or email of your own. To email, go to this website: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.
The Administration has signaled its intention to announce a decision soon.