Don’t Say ‘Climate Change,’ White House Tells USDA

If you work in Trump’s White House, don’t you dare say climate change.

That probably sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but the Guardian has obtained a chain of emails sent just days after the inauguration in which the Trump officials forbid employees at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using the term “climate change.”

USDA staff members handled the directive differently: some objected, some asked how to be in better compliance with the administration’s wishes and many were just confused as to how to do their scientific jobs within these limitations. If your job is to help protect American farms from the consequences of climate change, not being able to say the phrase poses some obvious problems.

Bianca Moebius-Clune, the USDA’s leader on soil health, assured fellow staffers that their mission would not change, just the language used to describe the problems they face. In other words, they don’t have to abandon their climate change-related projects, they just have to pretend they’re doing it for reasons other than climate change.

Ever so helpfully, Moebius-Clune offered up some alternative phrases to talk around climate change:

  • Don’t say climate change… instead say weather extremes
  • Don’t say reduce greenhouse gases… instead say build soil organic manner or increase nutrient use efficiency
  • Don’t say sequester carbon… instead say build soil organic matter
  • Don’t say climate change adaptation… instead say resilience to weather extremes

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? Fixing the U.S.’s agricultural threats really hinges on adequately tackling climate change and carbon emissions, but the White House is trying to erase that from the narrative completely.

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. After all, the man Trump nominated to be the USDA’s top scientist is not a scientist at all.

For example, in one of the released emails, Jimmy Bramblett, who was then serving as deputy chief for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, advised staff to think twice about mentioning greenhouse gases in their work, and suggested that the USDA’s research on greenhouse gases were on the chopping block.

He also spelled about the larger issue more clearly, writing, “It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priorities is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch.”

This and other emails were obtained following a Freedom of Information Act Request about how federal government agencies have discussed climate change since Donald Trump took office. 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.

Climate change is real, climate change is serious and climate change must be on the lips of federal officials. The Trump administration may find it politically convenient to ban employees from using the term, but it will be to our own peril to try to sweep it under the rug. Please sign the Care2 petition demanding that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stop the ban on the phrase “climate change.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock

89 comments

Stephanie s
Stephanie s14 days ago

Signed. Thank you

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I15 days ago

Petition signed! Thanks!

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson15 days ago

signed, ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson15 days ago

signed, ty

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Jaime J
Jaime J26 days ago

Thank you!!

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Jasmin S
Jasmin S28 days ago

About the Climate change: I live in North Lapland above the Arctic Cirkle that I can tell you about 2 last years we have had only ONE WEEK SUMMER. Everything die what you try to grow, Last night was already frost which all died before making the vegetables!!!

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a month ago

Thanks!!!

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One Heart i
One Heart incabout a month ago

Thanks!!!

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a month ago

Isn't there anything like 'freedom of speech'. So, why would they not be allowed to use the right terminology, viz. Climate Change. It even does not say "warming up"... which it in fact is. Temperatures are rising all over the planet, and it is not by 2 degr. Cels. each year, but even if it were 2 degrees Celsius every 3 years, at a certain moment, it will be TOO MUCH !! I remember that shortly after his inauguration, he said that it was a very hard job ("trying" to be a president) and that there was an awful lot of work to do. He had never thought that before. Well, if doing his JOB is so time consuming, why is he then trying to write a new dictionary...??? However this phenomenon is called, it is what it is. Scientist have calculated that when nothing seriously - real seriously - is done as from now, today... it will become a catastrophe. Many countries along the seas and oceans will be flooded. But apparently mathematics was not his favorite in school, so he does not now that when the ocean level is rising 10 or 15 cm. many many cities will stand with their feet in the water.. The sea water I mean. Unless of course he thinks that when the ocean level rises 10 cm., it will push up the solid continents, and we will not be flooded ??? But, seriously, it is nothing to laugh about... it is a dead serious matter. But he only want to open a huge number of coal mines, and the use of fossil energy from coal and oil is

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Janet B
Janet Babout a month ago

Thanks

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