In a directive reminiscent of George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where people were only allowed to communicate in an ever diminishing language called "newspeak", employees of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to ditch the word "climate change".
According to The Guardian, an official within the USDA claimed that the new direction was set to be more palatable to the Trump administration and within the administration's agricultural interests. In April, The Washington Post reported detailed climate data and other scientific information related to climate change had been removed from the EPAs website.
Don't say climate change... Obviously there is no requirement that farmers do this to grow food; the strategy is created to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Don't say sequester carbon...
While USDA staffers may still technically be able to do their jobs by using these Trump-approved euphemisms, does that really address the greater problems at hand? Last week, the USA formally announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
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Given the Trump team's other positions on climate change, there's reason to worry that the language operative is just the first step toward pulling the USDA away from environmental concerns altogether.
Trump's top officials have gone to battle against climate change, with EPA chief Scott Pruitt challenging the notion and wanting scientists to debate climate on TV, it was revealed in July. NRCS's climate change page, created to "to provide assistance to enable farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability", is still live on the service's website. The first email obtained by the Guardian, sent by NRCS Deputy Chief for Programs Jimmy Bramblett on January 24, advised of the new administration's "shift in perspective" with regard to climate change.
"Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch", it reads. The newspaper got its hands on the draft report, written by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which shows there has been a rapid rise in temperatures since 1980, that we are already feeling the effects of climate change, and that "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible" for the problem. While the USDA was sluggish in producing these documents, the EPA and Interior Department have flat out refused to comply, so now a lawsuit is in the works. The Trump administration, however, is saying it's all a misinterpretation.
This Orwellian battle against science can't come as a huge shock considering that Sonny Perdue, Trump's Secretary of Agriculture, once held a public vigil on government property to pray for rain during a drought as governor of Georgia.