With Hurricane Harvey sweeping through the south, the United States should be on high alert when it comes to climate change. But in reality, the nation’s political leaders are still trying to hide the problem by repeatedly censoring the words “climate change” and “global warming”.
Environmental inaction is nothing new. As early as 2007, President Bush publicly denied a report on climate change in favor of keeping his old policies. As former vice president Dick Cheney put it, the evidence for global warming was “not enough to just sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that’s going to ‘solve’ the problem”.
We know now that “slapping together a policy” in 2007 would have been a monumental step towards fighting climate change. But a decade later, the United States is stuck in the same rut of climate change denial from the top levels of government. What makes today even worse is that our leaders are now trying to censor the problem.
In a recent Facebook post by a climate change researcher from Northeastern University, we learned that EPA officials had asked her to remove the words “climate change” and “global warming” from her nonpartisan research. This raises some red flags on two levels. First and foremost, it’s asking a researcher to change her words based on the government’s preferences, which arguably violates the First Amendment rights guaranteed in our Constitution. And on another level, it compromises the reliability of scientific research, research that could be used to help prevent natural disasters like Tropical Storm Harvey.
To make matters worse, the Northeastern University researcher was not the first person to receive this level of censorship; entire levels of government have been instructed to avoid key controversial terms like “global warming” and “climate change”. Instead, they dance around the topic and fill the spaces with fluffy metaphors and circumvent language. These branches include the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Agriculture, two organizations that will be crucial in the fight to lower United States resource consumption. After all, a majority chunk of the US’s carbon emissions come directly from the agriculture business, followed closely by transportation and other industries that use unclean energy.
Thankfully, many patriots have recognized this grand problem and begun efforts to reverse it. In May, the Centre for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against President Trump and the EPA for censoring information related to climate change. At the time, the EPA’s website simply read that they were “updating” the site to reflect the new administration’s priorities. Oddly enough, this involved archiving all of President Obama’s information and stalling the upload of new pages.
In addition to this, past solutions have included uniting scientists in protest. In 2012, a group of climate scientists got together to formally denounce the climate change censorship and uphold the value of their own research. But ironically, these scientists were actually Canadian citizens protesting US actions. To date, US-based climate scientists haven’t taken as large of actions.
Still others are simply ignoring the government’s calls for censorship and accepting the consequences, which could include not being included in important government research or getting cut out of funding. Not only does this affect the quality of the nation’s science as a whole, but it affects individual scientists, potentially putting many out of a job and weakening the value of the career field.
If this censorship continues, time will only tell how much havoc it will wreak. On the one hand, some people claim that businesses drive climate action, and government support wouldn’t matter anyway. On the other hand, many people argue that getting the government on board is the first step towards securing change.
Even though we can’t fully predict the future, we can still look to the past. In the last ten years since climate change was first censored from American documents, an abundance of national disasters have hit the country, with Tropical Storm Harvey as the most recent–but by no means the most severe–example. In the next ten years, if this censorship continues, it’s logical to assume that these climate disasters and other predicted negative effects of climate change will keep increasing in number and volume.
In a nutshell, the problem won’t go away if we ignore it. On the contrary, the government will only cause more problems when they ignore not only climate change but also First Amendment rights.