It’s not enough for the Trump administration to end Obama-era efforts to halt man-made climate change, as it effectively did with an executive order on Tuesday. The White House is now reportedly instructing employees of the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy in the Energy Department not to even mention the term “climate change,” or a number of related phrases. Politico reports that during a meeting on Tuesday, “a supervisor at the Energy Department’s international climate office told staff…not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written memos, briefings or other written communication.”
The latest head-in-the-sand move by the Trump administration is part of an overarching effort by Republicans to spin man-made climate change — which 97 percent of scientists agree is happening — as an issue of debate. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to rollback Obama environmental regulations in order to revive the coal industry and create jobs. This came four years after he tweeted that the “concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
“You know what this is? You know what this says?” Trump reportedly said to a group of miners assembled for a photo op at the signing of his anti-environment executive order. “You’re going back to work.”
The scene came one day after Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, the largest privately held coal mining company in the U.S., said what we all knew: the industry won’t be revived. In an interview with the Guardian, Murray acknowledged that job loss across the coal industry was driven by technological innovation, not over-regulation. The mining boss claims he “suggested that [Trump] temper his expectations. Those are my exact words,” Murray told the outlet. “He can’t bring them back.”
Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, also drew attention to the lie at the heart of Trump’s anti-environmental efforts.
“The regulatory changes are entirely outweighed by these technological changes, not to mention the price of natural gas or renewables,” Muro told the New York Times. “Even if you brought back demand for coal, you wouldn’t bring back the same number of workers.”
Department of Energy officials have denied any prohibition on language, with one spokesperson telling Politico, “No words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department.”
One official suggested that while the ban may not be officially codified into State Department rules, it’s clear that there’s an unsubtle top-down effort to change the ethos, culture and lexicon of the agency.
“We have definitively not received anything on banned words, not even orally,” the official reportedly told Politico. “But people are doing a lot of reading into tea leaves. People are taking their own initiatives to not use certain words based on hints from transition people. Everyone is encouraged to find different ways of talking about things. There’s a sense that you’d better find a way to delink.”