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September 2018, Week 2

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 		 [When this tracker was launched, we had 96 entries, almost two
attempts to silence science each week during the 14 months after
President Trump was elected. Since then, the Trump administration’s
attacks on science have accelerated.] [https://portside.org/] 

 THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S CONTINUED ATTACK ON SCIENCE  
[https://portside.org/node/18120] 

 

 Romany Webb and Lauren Kurtz 
 August 15, 2018
Climate Law Blog - Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
[http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/climatechange/2018/08/15/the-trump-administrations-continued-attack-on-science/]


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 _ When this tracker was launched, we had 96 entries, almost two
attempts to silence science each week during the 14 months after
President Trump was elected. Since then, the Trump administration’s
attacks on science have accelerated. _ 

 , Thomas Fuchs 

 

As of August 14, the federal government has attempted to censor,
misrepresent, and otherwise stifle science over 150 times. We know
this because, in January, the Sabin Center
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/about-us/our-team/] and Climate
Science Legal Defense Fund [https://www.csldf.org/] launched
the Silencing Science Tracker
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/resources/silencing-science-tracker/] (SST).
As its name suggests, the SST records federal government action to
“silence science,” for example by restricting scientific research
or the publication of scientific information, since the November 2016
election. When the SST was launched, we had 96 entries, meaning that
there had been almost two attempts to silence science each week during
the fourteen months after President Trump was elected. Since then, the
Trump administration’s attacks on science have accelerated, with the
SST now containing 155 entries.

Figure 1: SST Entries by Scientists Affected

Of the 155 SST entries, over three-quarters (118) involve attempts to
silence climate science, with the remainder targeting scientists who
work in other subject areas. Across both categories, the highest
number of attacks have originated at the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/agency/us-epa/] (EPA),
which accounts for 26% (42) of all SST entries. The U.S. Department
of the Interior
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/agency/us-doi/] (DOI)
is not far behind, accounting for 19% (30) of all entries, followed by
the Departments of Energy
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/agency/us-doe/] (DOE)
and Health and Human Services
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/agency/us-hhs/](HHS),
which account for 9% (14-15) each.

That these four agencies dominate the SST is unsurprising. Each is
responsible for developing policy in an area where science is often at
odds with the Trump administration’s priorities. For example,
President Trump has directed
[https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-executive-order-promoting-energy-independence-economic-growth/] EPA
and DOI to reconsider regulations adopted to control greenhouse gas
emissions, despite the wealth of data showing that those emissions are
the key cause of climate change. Faced with this contradiction, both
agencies have sought to downplay the science, including by restricting
the availability of information (for example, by removing climate
data
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/climate-science-page-removed-from-epa-website/] from
websites and deleting references
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/references-to-humans-role-in-causing-climate-change-removed-from-nps-report/] to
humans’ role in climate change from reports). Similar action has
also been taken by a raft of other entities, with the SST indicating
that at least 20 different federal bodies, including both Congress
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/agency/congress/] and
the White House
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/agency/white-house/],
have attempted to restrict access to scientific information or
otherwise silence science.

Figure 2: SST Entries by Agency

The SST divides actions to silence science into six categories as
follows:

	* _Government censorship_, which includes any action making
scientific information more difficult to find or access, including
changes to government websites that suppress or distort scientific
information.
 	* _Self-censorship, _which involves government scientists
voluntarily changing websites or documents to suppress or distort
scientific information, potentially in response to political pressure.
 	* _Budget cuts_, which encompass reductions in funding for existing
programs involving scientific research and education, and the
cancellation of existing grants.
 	* _Personnel changes_, which include the removal of government
scientists, the failure to fill scientific positions in government,
and the appointment of unqualified individuals to such positions.
 	* _Research hindrance_, which involves actions preventing or
hindering the conduct of scientific research, such as the destruction
of needed data.
 	* _Bias and misrepresentation_, which involves the government
misrepresenting or mischaracterizing scientific studies, or engaging
in cherry picking.

The “government censorship
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/explanation/government-censorship/]”
category currently includes the most entries, accounting for 37% (63)
of the total. Many of the entries relate to changes to agency
websites, particularly those managed by EPA and DOI, to remove
references to “climate change” (see here
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/climate-change-documents-removed-from-nps-website/] for
another example). Climate science has also been targeted in other
ways, for example, by government entities cutting funding
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/epa-research-grants-cancelled-at-direction-of-political-appointee/] for
climate change research and reassigning
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/doi-employees-reassigned-to-unrelated-positions/] climate
scientists to work on unrelated topics. Perhaps most concerningly,
some entities have even been misrepresenting
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/silencing-science-tracker/epa-talking-points-misrepresent-climate-science/]climate
science, and casting doubt on proven scientific facts. Unfortunately,
if past experience with the Trump administration is anything to go by,
these attacks are unlikely to end anytime soon.

_Romany Webb joined the Sabin Center in September 2016 as a Climate
Law Fellow. She became a Senior Fellow in September 2018._

_Romany’s work at the Sabin Center focuses on climate change
mitigation, exploring how legal and policy tools can be used to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote carbon sequestration. Much
of her research focuses on the intersection of climate and energy,
looking at options to minimize the climate impacts of energy
development. In addition to her scholarship, Romany maintains online
resources such as the Silencing Science Tracker
[http://columbiaclimatelaw.com/resources/silencing-science-tracker/]._

_Prior to joining the Sabin Center, Romany worked at the University of
California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute, researching
executive authority to combat climate change. Romany also completed a
fellowship with the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and
Business at the University of Texas at Austin, where she researched
energy policy. The fellowship followed several years working in
private practice in Sydney, Australia._

_Romany received an LL.M., with a certificate of specialization in
environmental law, from the University of California, Berkeley in
2013. She also holds an LL.B., awarded with first class honors, from
the University of New South Wales (Australia)._

_Lauren Kurtz is executive director at Climate Science Legal Defense
Fund (CSLDF), a non-profit that provides legal protection and
education for climate scientists. Legal action against climatologists
as a political tactic slows and prevents critical advancements in
our understanding of the planet. Lauren works to provide legal
resources when scientists are pulled into litigation, connecting them
with pro bono resources and facilitating information sharing about
key cases and strategies among attorneys. She holds an MA in
environmental policy from the University of Pennsylvania and a JD
from University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was involved in
the Environmental Law Project. _

_THE SABIN CENTER develops legal techniques to fight climate change,
trains students and lawyers in their use, and provides up-to-date
resources on key topics in climate change law and regulation._

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