As a deep current that normally cools the Gulf of Maine reaches a record-high temperature, the White House escalates its war on science.
The Trump administration has removed mentions of climate change from federal government websites, yet the air and water continue to warm and sea levels keep rising. Data on climate change are buried on those sites where it used to be displayed prominently, and still glaciers melt and animal and plant species appear where they’ve never been before.
No, climate change doesn’t stop just because you ignore it – like tooth decay or that weird rattle in your car, it only gets worse until you can’t possibly look the other way any longer. In this case, however, the stakes are much higher than a blown engine.
Two separate reports released in January found that the administration scrubbed hundreds of website pages connected to state and local climate remediation programs, as if refusing to acknowledge climate change makes it any less real.
The Bureau of Land Management removed its climate-change website as well as all mention of climate-change mitigation. The site with information on the Clean Power Plan was removed, too, erasing information helpful to the public during a comment period on its future. (It probably goes without saying that President Trump wants to scuttle the plan.)
This kind of absurd denial should not be a surprise. Trump, of course, has as his administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt, who had spent a career opposed to the agency’s central mission of regulating industry and protecting natural resources. Pruitt is now trying to roll back Obama-era guidelines on automobile fuel efficiency and pollution from oil and gas operations and coal ash dumps.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has taken much the same tack, putting forward plans to drill for oil and gas offshore and on federal lands where it was previously prohibited.
The actions of both Cabinet members reveal an administration handing over the health and well-being of our citizens and our environment to fossil fuel companies. That goes against the science, which says that our continued reliance on oil, gas and coal is making us sick, and hurting the planet in innumerable ways.
To prepare for those sort of policies, then, it helps to get rid of the scientists – and that’s what the Trump administration did. Scientists who were career civil servants – beholden to the data and the facts, not to any one administration or ideology – could not be fired, so troublemakers were reassigned until they quit. One of them was Joel Clement, a Maine native who was director of the Interior Department’s Office of Policy Analysis.
On Tuesday, Pruitt went further, announcing a plan to limit the kinds of studies that can be used in writing EPA regulations, eliminating from that list landmark research that connects things like pesticide and pollution to poor health.
Also this week, the Portland Press Herald reported that the once-chilly current of water that has helped make the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine so productive is nearly 11 degrees above normal temperature for this time of year, at a record 57 degrees. The cause, and ultimate effects, are unclear.
Researchers will work to figure out what is going on there, and in the fields, rivers and mountains where changes have been so rapid and obvious. But when they do, will there be anyone around to listen?