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Trump Administration Systematically Erasing Climate Change References

Oregon communities could start to feel the effects of ocean acidification if climate change isn't curbed, scientists say. (Plumbago/Flickr)
Oregon communities could start to feel the effects of ocean acidification if climate change isn't curbed, scientists say. (Plumbago/Flickr)
January 15, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Will the Trump administration's erasure of climate change references have consequences for the nation?

A former government scientist says unequivocally yes.

Rick Spinrad, former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says language is important, and when certain phrases such as "climate change" are avoided or replaced with euphemisms, their meaning is compromised and devalued.

Spinrad references a report released last week by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative that found government agencies are systematically replacing "climate change" with vaguer terms such as "sustainability" on their websites.

"Many people, when they look at this issue, may think, 'Oh, this is just semantics,’” he states. “’You're just changing climate change to sustainability.'

“No, it's deeper than that. It's hiding information. It's obscuring important decision aids for not just the government but also industry and the public at large."

Spinrad says the mentality has trickled down to scientists, who, he says, have become wary of referring to climate change because of the potential ramifications.

Spinrad says this shift could hurt Oregon, too. For example, the state and its West Coast neighbors have been taking on ocean acidification – a side effect of climate change.

The states rely on the federal government's abundant resources to help collect data for guidance.

Without that data, Spinrad says Oregon oyster hatcheries, fishing communities and more will be severely damaged by acidification.

So what can be done? He says informing the public is key, but the Trump administration is under no obligation to invest in climate change research.

"That certainly is the prerogative of the administration, but it should be done in a way that clearly defines how the current body of research in that field will be connected to their policies," he states.

Officials in the Trump administration make the case that burdensome and, in many cases, environmental regulations are bad for business.

Spinrad says there is an assumption that the environment and the economy are at odds.

"What we've learned over the last few years is that, no – in fact, there is a whole new economical model around clean energy, around coastal resilience and sustainability, all of which is part of climate change and climate change research," he points out.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR