Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees received talking points that appear to fit right in with Administrator Scott Pruitt’s skepticism of humanity’s role in climate change. Meant to develop “consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts,” the talking points — obtained by HuffPost — emphasized the uncertainties in what we know about climate change and concluded with, “Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science.”
EPA employees were issued eight talking points from the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) on how to talk about climate adaptation. The first said the agency “recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate.” The next three talked about promoting science and working with local and tribal governments on improving infrastructure.
The final four took a detour into the realm of uncertainties. Talking points five and six read, “Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”
EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman told HuffPost, “This is not an official memo; this is simply an email among colleagues, based on information developed by someone in our office…implying we are telling people to downplay climate change is a gross over misrepresentation of the facts.”
The Washington Post said the email had been written based on scientifically unsound, controversial statements from Pruitt. HuffPost said Pruitt personally oversaw moves to remove climate change from agency websites, and has defended President Donald Trump’s decision to yank America out of the Paris Agreement.
The Union of Concerned Scientists‘ Center for Science and Democracy deputy director Michael Halpern told The Washington Post, “The EPA administrator should not be in the business of telling scientists what they should say publicly about basic scientific information. The implication is that EPA wants a political filter on all scientific information emerging from the government, especially if it has to do with climate change.”
Correction: This article initially stated that the talking points originated from staffer Joel Scheraga. The article was clarified March 30, 2018 at 4:30 PM to reflect that the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs issued the talking points.