As It Happens

Climate change disappears from Trump's White House website

Just minutes after Donald Trump was sworn in, all mention of climate change was deleted from the White House website — along with other data as well. Professor Michelle Murphy tells As it Happens guest host that it's a sign of things to come.
Minutes after U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration, this webpage was removed from the White House website. (Left: REUTERS/Carlos Barria, Right: Screenshot/The Internet Archive)

Minutes after Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States on Friday, there were some major changes to the White House website.

One of those changes included references to climate change. Here's an archived version of the site from earlier:

(Screenshot/The Internet Archive)

After 12 noon on Friday, a search of the term "climate change" on the White House website returns zero results.

On a page (copied below) entitled, "An America First Energy Plan," it reads: "President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule."

After Donald Trump won the U.S. election, climate scientists began archiving millions of web pages of climate data stored on U.S. government servers. They feared that the Trump administration would delete the data if they didn't save it.

Michelle Murphy is a professor at the University of Toronto. (University of Toronto)
Michelle Murphy, director of the Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto, is a professor who has been helping back up some of this data. Murphy tells As it Happens guest host Helen Mann why she believes these changes are a sign of things to come.  

HELEN MANN: Professor Murphy, How did you react when you saw how quickly the climate change section of the White House website had been removed?

MICHELLE MURPHY: Well, even though I've been preparing for this for weeks now, I have to say that my stomach sunk to see it actually be happening.

HM: How significant is the deletion [of this information]?

MM: It's significant and it's not significant. The Internet Archive, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI), DataRefuge at Penn, many others across the country have been working really tirelessly, day and night, to make sure that we have records of these web pages. So, we can go back… and look at what was there. So, it's not that the record of those websites are lost. But, what the rapid changing of these websites signals to us is that these programs are likely to be cut. That is the big loss.

HM: This information being deleted — it's not unusual as I understand it — isn't it part of the normal transfer of power on inauguration day?

MM: Yes. So, the websites change on inauguration day every time, every transition — just like we would see in Canada. But, the important thing is what we're seeing change. What we're seeing is things that were executive orders, particularly around climate change, disappearing. So, that signals really the policy direction. And, it's not a surprise. We've been hearing the transition team take anti-climate change mitigation stances — even stances hostile to evidence-based governance.  

U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges the audience after taking the oath of office as his wife Melania (L) and daughter Tiffany watch during inauguration ceremonies swearing in Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S., January 20, 2017. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg)
HM: Now, this White House page — the "America First Energy Plan" — that the Trump administration has put up, does talk about protecting air and water … Does that not provide some support, some relief, to you in that it maybe acknowledges that the environment needs protecting?

MM: Well, on the one hand we could say yes — that there's some signals that not all environmental regulation will be gotten rid of. And it's also the case that there's some environmental regulation that's hard to get rid of. But, how can we take seriously the statement about protecting the air and the water when we see the actual programs that do that work being slated for cutting?

HM: What's the tone of the messaging that you're getting from your colleagues [involved in this archiving project]?

We definitely feel the weight of this moment.- Michelle Murphy

MM: I would say I've seen the word "nauseous" a lot. All these people are doing this on their free time. It's voluntary labour. It's people who are researchers, scientists and experts on the environment, on science, on coding, on archives. They are people who understand [this issue] has tremendous ramifications — not just for their research — but also for their communities, for the continent and maybe even the planet. So, we definitely feel the weight of this moment.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story listen to our full interview with Michelle Murphy. 

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From www.whitehouse.gov:

An America First Energy Plan

Energy is an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy. The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.

For too long, we've been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own. We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure. Less expensive energy will be a big boost to American agriculture, as well.

The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America's coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.

In addition to being good for our economy, boosting domestic energy production is in America's national security interest. President Trump is committed to achieving energy independence from the OPEC cartel and any nations hostile to our interests. At the same time, we will work with our Gulf allies to develop a positive energy relationship as part of our anti-terrorism strategy.

Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.

A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health. Under the Trump Administration's energy policies, that future can become a reality.        

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