Although Donald Trump has been in power for just 2 weeks, he has already stopped 2 major departments from interacting with the public and the press. These gag orders have been placed on the Department of Agriculture for the US and also the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is imperative that these agencies should be allowed to freely relay information from scientists to the public; they should not have political interference, not least censorship of information.
The consequent effect of these orders is that the public will become less aware of environmental issues, also ensuring that there is less focus of these within the media and news outlets. Climate change is a widely-accepted topic area that needs to be addressed, particularly by the United States who are the world’s second largest carbon dioxide emitter, making the gag orders increasingly worrying. If this is what Trump can achieve within two weeks of his Presidency, who’s to say that there will not be even larger changes and the further dismissal of climate change as a myth in the coming weeks?
The EPA has research focused on reducing carbon emissions, however with the gag order in place it has seen its budget for grants and contracts frozen. One of the biggest changes though is the appointment of Director Scott Pruitt. Trumps employment of Pruitt is concerning, as not only is he a climate change denier but he has ‘previous’ with the organization before, taking them to court. This has meant that the agency in charge of researching emissions, will now find it more difficult to publish the relevant information to the public.
The US Department of Agriculture has also been affected; the department looks into methane emissions, and ways to reduce them, with methane being a key contributor to climate change.
The suppression of their research, and the consequent distribution of its findings, will most certainly result in both departments becoming weaker; lessening their ability to carry out projects that combat climate change. Even though both departments have documents stating their freedom of information to the public, this has not seemed to hold back Trump.
There is even a suggestion, in a letter from the White House Counsel, that the gag orders may be breaking federal law. As stated in the letter, it appears that the Trump administration has broken a number of laws, not least the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The letter also asks that the communication blackout should be righted immediately. If Trump can continue to break federal laws, then his beliefs will mean that climate change will be given minimal funding and importance.
There has been a backlash on social media with many employees of the affected two department – as well as NASA and the Department of Interior, Health and Human services – retaliating. The employees have created ‘rogue’ twitter accounts, resisting against Trump’s gag orders. These twitter profiles have quickly accumulated followers and reports of ‘real news’. Evidence of climate change has been posted with the hope that the information will still reach the people.
The restraining nature of major science-based agencies leaves little doubt that America is regressing to a pre-Obama state, with the monumental signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, in 2015, seeming like a pipe dream. Donald Trump’s anti-science stance means that America – as one of the most influential countries in the world – could prompt other nations to reduce their research into investigating climate change. As a result, the effects of these gag orders could reverberate globally, with climate change pushed aside in favour of ‘alternative facts’.
(Image courtesy of www.mercurynews.com)