USDA staff was instructed not to use the term 'climate change' in communications

Landscape affected by drought.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Guardian revealed Monday that staffers at the Department of Agriculture have been given very specific instructions about which words are acceptable and unacceptable to use when writing about climate change-related work:

"Climate change" is in the "avoid" category, to be replaced by "weather extremes." Instead of "climate change adaption," staff are asked to use "resilience to weather extremes."The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term "reduce greenhouse gases" blacklisted in favor of "build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency." Meanwhile, "sequester carbon" is ruled out and replaced by "build soil organic matter." [The Guardian]

The instructions, detailed in an email sent in February by Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health, mark "the clearest indication yet that staff have been instructed to steer clear of acknowledging climate change or its myriad consequences," The Guardian reported. Moebius-Clune insisted in the email that the department would not "change the modeling, just how we talk about it."

Trump has repeatedly expressed doubts about the scientifically-backed reality of climate change. Trump's top pick for the USDA's chief scientist, Sam Clovis, has called climate research "junk science."

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"These records reveal Trump's active censorship of science in the name of his political agenda," said Meg Townsend, open government attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "To think that federal agency staff who report about the air, water, and soil that sustains the health of our nation must conform their reporting with the Trump administration's anti-science rhetoric is appalling and dangerous for America and the greater global community."

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