OPINION | Trump’s climate change censorship puts us all at risk
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Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine the First Amendment are undoubtedly troubling. But his attacks on the First Amendment are only part of the story. Trump is also stifling unbiased data and research that is coming from his own administration, and that is even more worrisome than his ongoing “fake news” crusade.

Silencing dissent and basic scientific data and research, all in the name politics, is behavior fit for a dictatorship, not a democracy, and Congress should act immediately to protect research and data, as well as whistle-blowers who are sounding the alarm on Trump’s censorship, before it’s too late.

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No issue has been the target of Donald Trump’s censorship more than climate change.  As a candidate, he infamously called climate change a “hoax” perpetuated by the Chinese and now as president, is swiftly installing this nonsense into the lexicon of the federal government.

This week it was reported that the Department of Agriculture stopped using the term “climate change” and has been instructed to use the term “weather extremes” instead. Further, the USDA had to replace the phrase “reduce greenhouse gases” with the completely ambiguous “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency.” We’re in the middle of the second hottest year on record and the president won’t let the federal government talk about it in words that actual humans can understand.

In fact, one of Trump’s first actions as president was to gag employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Health and Human Services — agencies that are responsible for informing the public about climate change — from publishing press releases, blog posts, or otherwise publicizing upcoming public events. The employees at these agencies were informed that they could not even send “correspondence” to other public officials and instead would have to go through senior officials who were reportedly instructed to wait until they “received instructions from the White House.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE’s climate censorship extends to the Department of Energy and the State Department, too. In March it was reported that a supervisor at the DOE’s Office of International Climate and Clean Energy instructed staff not to use the phrases “climate change, “emissions reduction, or “Paris Agreement," while just this week it was reported Secretary of State, and former ExxonMobil CEO, Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonReport: Trump UK ambassador fired deputy for mentioning Obama in speech Overnight Defense: Ex-Navy secretary slams Trump in new op-ed | Impeachment tests Pompeo's ties with Trump | Mexican president rules out US 'intervention' against cartels Pompeo-Trump relationship tested by impeachment inquiry MORE, told U.S. diplomats to give vague answers about re-entering the Paris Agreement. How can we join with our allies around the world to address one of the biggest global threats we face if we can’t even discuss it?

Clearly, scientists share this fear because a draft of a comprehensive climate change report written by scientists from 13 federal agencies was leaked out of fear that Trump would try to suppress the findings. The report provides some of the strongest evidence to date that humans are primarily responsible for rising global temperatures since 1951 and therefore must immediately take large-scale corrective action. This finding stands in stark contrast to President Trump and the climate-change skeptics Scott Pruitt and Rick PerryRick PerryNew Energy secretary cancels Paris trip amid mass strikes against Macron proposal Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in Overnight Energy: Critics call EPA air guidance 'an industry dream' | New Energy secretary says Trump wants to boost coal | EPA looks to speed approval of disputed industry pollution permits MORE he has put in charge of the EPA and Department of Energy, respectively, who argue human impact is minimal-to-non-existent.

The Trump administration's concerted climate censorship attack is a threat to our standing in the world, our preparedness to deal with a global crisis, and to our economy. A study by a team of scientists and economists published in the June 30th edition of "Science," the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, found, essentially, "the warmer it gets, the bigger the hit to the economy" and if global warming continues unchecked it could result in up to six points off of the United States' gross domestic product by the end of the century.

The study predicts that the hardest hit regions in the United States will be the South and the Midwest, which could reportedly face "huge damage to their local economies, due to enormous electric bills, dying crops, or mass migration away from the area,” a warning that we cannot in good conscience ignore.

If left unchecked, Trump will continue to use censorship to remake the federal government in his own distorted image. We cannot let that happen, and every American has a responsibility to speak out against these reckless attacks on science, research, and transparency.

That starts with Congress, who has a constitutional responsibility to serve as a check on the Executive Branch, particularly when it comes to partisan overreach. They should act to protect researchers and scientists who should be able to work independently of political interference. Research shouldn’t be politicized and scientific findings shouldn’t be silenced to serve a president’s partisan agenda.

Emily Aden is the rapid response director of American Bridge, a progressive research and communications organization. Follow her on Twitter @emad16.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.