USDA office told to use ‘weather extremes’ instead of 'climate change'

USDA office told to use ‘weather extremes’ instead of 'climate change'
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Officials at a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office told staffers to avoid the term “climate change” in their communications and use language like “weather extremes” instead, The Guardian reported Monday.

According to emails obtained by The Guardian, officials told staffers in the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to change the way they discuss climate change in their work.

According to the office, climate change would become “weather extremes.” Climate change adaptation should instead be “resilience to weather,” and efforts to “reduce greenhouse gases” should instead be deemed as ways to “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency.”

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“We won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it,” Bianca Moebius-Clune, the NRCS’s director of soil health, wrote in an email to staff on Feb. 16, according to the report. Moebius-Clune said the new language was given to her to pass on to staff.

It is not clear whether the NRCS's use of "weather extremes" instead of climate change is part of a broader shift within the USDA. An official said the directive was designed to allow the office to continue its climate change work while presenting it in a way that would better resonate with the new administration and the agricultural interests with which it works. 

NRCS's climate change page, designed to "to provide assistance to enable farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability," is still live on the service's website. 

“It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priorities is not consistent with that of the incoming administration,” Jimmy Bramblett, the NRCS’s deputy chief for programs, wrote in a Jan. 24 email to certain officials. “Namely, that priority is climate change.”

President Trump last month nominated Sam Clovis to be the USDA’s chief scientist. Clovis is not a scientist, does not have a science degree and has said he is “extremely skeptical" of climate change, claiming “a lot of the science is junk science.”

The NRCS works on farmland conservation efforts around the country. In a statement, NRCS communications director Kaveh Sadeghzadeh said the office “has not received direction from USDA or the Administration to modify its communications on climate change or any other topic.”

“The agency continuously evaluates its messaging to America's farmers, ranchers and foresters as they work to implement voluntary conservation on their operations to improve the health of our soil, air, water and habitat."

There have been other signs of a shift from climate change within the administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency in April removed the climate change page from its website, and the White House also deleted its page dedicated to the U.S.’s work on climate change.

Trump does not believe in the scientific consensus behind man-made climate change, and his administration has taken steps to move away from its messaging on the subject.

This story was updated at 4:27 p.m.