JOSHUA VAIL

Tribune reporter

Donald Trump might have misunderstood: 1984 is cautionary tale, not a guidebook. 

But he seems to be taking a page from the Ministry of Truth with the recent orders to halt or severely limit new public communication from several government agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. 

These various orders appear to have a common factor: the affected agencies employ or fund scientists who research global, human-caused climate change. 

These scientists are paid using our tax dollars. Their research belongs to the people, and it appears that President Donald Trump wants to keep it from the people.

If I learned anything from School House Rock, Knowledge is Power. Donald Trump says he wants power back in the hands of the people, so keeping knowledge from the people should be the last thing on his agenda. 

The orders cover social media, agency blogs and press releases. In the case of Health and Human Services, it is also ordered to limit communication with legislators. Reuters reported that the current climate change webpages have been ordered removed as well, though the EPA page on climate change can still be seen by visiting https://www.epa.gov/climatechange

The page on www.whitehouse.gov dealing with climate change was removed on the day of Trump’s inauguration.

The Centers for Disease Control, a branch of HHS, abruptly canceled a major conference on the health impacts of climate change that was scheduled this week. The American Public Health Association scheduled a new conference on the same date, without federal backing, with a much-reduced schedule and a much smaller venue. 

Taken as a whole, these orders and actions paint a picture of climate science denial as the official position of Donald Trump’s administration, as it was the official position of his campaign for president. 

This denial is like pretending that smoking is good for you, as the evidence for human-caused climate change is roughly as strong as the evidence that links cigarettes with lung cancer. 

An overwhelming percentage (97 percent) of climate scientists worldwide agree: all evidence points to an Earth hotter than it has been at any time in thousands of years; that this has had and will have catastrophic effects on the environment; and that it is caused or exacerbated by human activity.

The particulars are still being debated and studied, and of course the future is uncertain, but the evidence is in. Earth is getting warmer, this is bad, it’s not going to stop on its own, and something must be done. 

What should be done is something we can and should study and debate, but that something should be done cannot be questioned. 

There are already communities that have had to flee their homes due rising waters in the Solomon Islands. Climate refugees will become a growing concern as more people around the world are forced to leave their homes due to nature out of balance. 

Human-caused climate change is certain. President Donald Trump doesn’t share that certainty, has declared that certainty to be a “hoax” and, by implication, declared almost the entire scientific community to be hoaxers. 

Maybe this is a good time to open up the libel laws. 

These recent gag orders make it look an awful lot like the president is attempting to actively suppress the facts by keeping federal agencies from communicating about real scientific data on climate change. He is trying to harm and control communication both with the public and with Congress. 

He is trying to keep us from both knowing the effects of climate change and knowing how to do anything about it. 

This must not be allowed to stand. If you value open government, an informed electorate, scientific progress and human civilization not being wrecked by a severely unbalanced environment, this must not be allowed to stand. 

In response to the gag orders, employees with the National Parks Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, have created an alternative Twitter account to continue posting scientific information from government-funded research and government-employed scientists. 

NASA has not seen a gag order. Its mandate for public communication is much stronger than the other agencies that are more regulatory in nature. This doesn’t necessarily mean Trump absolutely cannot silence NASA on climate change, but it may be more difficult. 

For the time being, climate.nasa.gov is a good resource for information. The alternative National Park Service twitter account, @AltNatParkSer, will continue to post information. 

Information on climate change currently remains on the websites of many affected agencies as well. 

The Trump administration may be opposed to climate science, but the American people don’t have to wait to do something until the President acts. If this concerns you too, contact the White House, information at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call, and contact your legislators. 

Ask that they work to keep taxpayer-funded science open to the people and to support environmental protections so we can all take part in the solutions to a problem that concerns us all and keep the planet livable for those that come after us. 

Recommended for you

Load comments