On the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, book burning refers to the ritual destruction of written materials by fire. Usually carried out in public, the burning of books represents an element of censorship that proceeds from a cultural, religious, or political opposition to the materials in question. In the United States, we are watching a new regime ignite the records and data of climate change.
According to several news sites, less than one hour after President Trump took the oath of office on Friday, January 20th, the White House webpage on energy removed all references to climate change from the Executive Branch’s main site and replaced text with a pledge to dismantle “harmful and unnecessary environmental policies.”
This was followed by the news that despite months of planning and without providing a reason, the Center for Disease Control had cancelled a Health and Climate summit shortly before the inauguration. On his second business day in office, the Trump Administration ordered the US Environmental Protection Agency to freeze all its grants and contracts, including programs for climate research, environmental justice, and pollution prevention.
This followed a weekend where the phrase “alternative facts” became the Orwellian definition for any assertion that could easily be proven wrong by checking available facts. The press called it falsehoods. My grandmother would call them lies.
The early signs of censoring climate data confirm the suspicions of many climate activists. Months before the Trump inauguration, research scientists and others gathered to protect this vital data so that it could not be erased or disappeared. If decades of research from easily accessed public sites disappear, it could hamper the development of data sets intended to track the progression of the severe weather patterns and global temperatures. Protecting this data is one of the best defenses against climate denial.
In the 1990’s the communications team for the American Petroleum Institute revealed climate denial strategies take many forms. It looks like science that casts doubt on what scientists have been studying and reporting for over 60 years. It looks like discrediting the most revered institutions and calling it a function of politics. It undermines access to data that provides truth seekers proof of their worst suspicions. But denying the science and hiding the facts only makes this administration complicit in the unlawful destruction of the environment and human health.
We will continue to support global commitments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We will continue to support our partners around the world to hold those responsible accountable for their contributions to climate change. We will defend those who suffer the worst impacts of droughts, wild fires, hurricanes, and sea level rise, and those who are deprived of access to food, water, shelter, and livelihoods – all of which are basic human rights. Addressing climate change requires urgent action to prevent the needless suffering of millions of people.
Censorship will not stop us.