(Report) The EPA Is Instructing Its Staff To Cast Doubt On Climate Science

The EPA Office of Public Affairs distributed talking points that promote uncertainty regarding climate science.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has made no attempt at hiding his thoughts on climate change. Pruitt has been unwavering in his support of President Donald Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate accord; unconvinced by scientific consensus on the effects of burning fossil fuels; and he has worked to expunge climate change related information on the EPA's websites.

Given these truths, the internal memo leaked to HuffPost Tuesday setting out approved talking points for agency employees regarding the EPA's position on climate change comes as no real surprise.

Authored by Dr. Joel D. Scheraga, Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation, based on messaging distributed by the Office of Public Affairs to the Communications Directors and the Regional Public Affairs Directors, the memo conveys a bleak message for those concerned about U.S. initiatives on climate change.

  • EPA recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate.
  • EPA works with state, local, and tribal governments to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and natural disasters.
  • EPA also promotes science that helps inform states, municipalities, and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies.
  • Moving forward, EPA will continue to advance its climate adaptation efforts, and has reconvened the cross-EPA Adaptation Working Group in support of those efforts.
  • Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.
  • While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.
  • As a key regulatory voice, it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of these gaps given their potential significant influence on our country’s domestic economic viability
  • Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science.

As Eric Levitz of the Daily Intelligencer notes, this stance on climate change coming from the United States' top agency on environmental regulation is particularly concerning given what scientists believe is on the horizon:

In recent weeks, we’ve learned that global carbon emissions rose last year, defying (optimistic) expectations that they had reached a peak. We also learned that no country on Earth is on track to fulfill its emissions-cutting commitments under the Paris climate treaty; that even if all of them somehow fulfill those commitments, nonetheless, their actions would still be insufficient to avert a two-degree increase in global temperatures; and that, in a two-degree warmer world, 150 million more people will die as a result of air pollution, than would in a 1.5-degree warmer one.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman disagreed with HuffPost's characterization of the memo, saying:

“This is not an official memo; this is simply an email among colleagues, based on information developed by someone in our office,” she said, adding that “implying we are telling people to downplay climate change is a gross over misrepresentation of the facts.”