Ag Department: You Can’t Say “Climate Change”

August 7, 2017

Not even bothering with “red team, blue team, revisit the science”. For Authoritarians, banning thought is second nature.


Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead.

A series of emails obtained by the Guardian between staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a USDA unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, show that the incoming Trump administration has had a stark impact on the language used by some federal employees around climate change.

A missive from Bianca Moebius-Clune, director of soil health, lists terms that should be avoided by staff and those that should replace them. “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”.

In her email to staff, dated 16 February this year, Moebius-Clune said the new language was given to her staff and suggests it be passed on. She writes that “we won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it – there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them”, and that a colleague from USDA’s public affairs team gave advice to “tamp down on discretionary messaging right now”.

In contrast to these newly contentious climate terms, Moebius-Clune wrote that references to economic growth, emerging business opportunities in the rural US, agro-tourism and “improved aesthetics” should be “tolerated if not appreciated by all”.

Bramblett added that “prudence” should be used when discussing greenhouse gases and said the agency’s work on air quality regarding these gases could be discontinued.

Other emails show the often agonized discussions between staff unsure of what is forbidden. On 16 February, a staffer named Tim Hafner write to Bramblett: “I would like to know correct terms I should use instead of climate changes and anything to do with carbon … I want to ensure to incorporate correct terminology that the agency has approved to use.”

On 5 April, Suzanne Baker, a New York-based NRCS employee, emailed a query as to whether staff are “allowed to publish work from outside the USDA that use ‘climate change’”. A colleague advises that the issue be determined in a phone call.

Some staff weren’t enamored with the new regime, with one employee stating on an email on 5 July that “we would prefer to keep the language as is” and stressing the need to maintain the “scientific integrity of the work”.


8 Responses to “Ag Department: You Can’t Say “Climate Change””

  1. redskylite Says:

    Next step will be handing out the Valium to the remaining staff – keep them tranquil and mellow. Watch the Trump T.V channel, avoid the free press.

    Government Report Finds Drastic Impact of Climate Change on U.S.

    WASHINGTON — The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

    The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited.

    “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times.

    • I’m sure this report will be very useful to to current administration. They will carefully peruse all the details contained, find where that science came from and shut down funding, while reassigning staff involved to issuing drilling permits for fracking companies.

  2. andrewfez Says:

    Believe it or not, there is actually a subset of millennial Trump voters that voted for him because they dislike the no-platforming phenomenon happening on college campuses, and fake consumer revolts propagated by the selfsame players involved in the former, regarding ‘sexist’ video games and the like. They make a big to-do about free speech online in the YT comment sections. But they seem not to know the history of the Republican party’s limitation of climate communication at the highest reaches of government (Rick Scott, Ken Cuccinelli, Bush Era censorship of EPA climate documents, Lamar Smith, &c.) and are further blind to all the authoritarian crackdowns on the first amendment by the Trump Administration.

    • andrewfez Says:

      *forgot to add in the Harper govt.’s destruction of the world’s premier freshwater ecology library and its muzzling of scientists.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Bianca Moebius-Clune would appear to have the creds to be the director of soil health at the NRCS—-she is an actual soil scientist with published research, and not the typical millionaire Trump sycophant put in charge of something they have no knowledge of (although she may have gotten bored with teaching truth and doing research and instead now seeks the “power” to lie, which WOULD make her a good Trumpie).

    It is quite surprising to me that she would turn away from science and embrace political bullshit like this, and I asked myself “why would she do this?”. My old school administrator crap detectors vibrated a bit when I read her name, which is a bit unusual and may give some subliminal clues.

    “Bianca” is from the French/Iralian and means “white,shining”. “Moebius” brought to mind the Moebius Strip (visual below). The surname Clune is the anglicized version of the Irish name O Cluanain, which is from the Irish “cluana” meaning either “deceitful” or “flattering” or “rogue.”

    So, is she now a “deceitful” scientific “rogue” who would “white” wash the brightly “shining” duplicity she displays? Do her pronouncements resemble the Moebius
    Strip in that they have only one side? Is her name a clue to her destiny?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      A PS—-after posting this comment, I picked up the phone and called Moebius-Clune’s administrative assistant—-she answered on the second ring—-I asked her to express to the director my dismay at how a scientist could turn her back on science and so politicize the work of her agency—-as well as my sympathies that pressure from above was being exerted to get her to do that. She listened politely and assured me she would pass my thoughts on.

      Please try to find the time to make calls to legislators and government agencies, make public comments, etc.—-they DO at a minimum keep a tally, and DO respond if the pro or con numbers are large enough.

  4. ubrew12 Says:

    Dept of Ag, in a few years: “Due to ‘weather extremes’, we suggest you sell your Texas ranch and buy land in Wisconsin.”

    “Also, move away from the coastlines, due to land subsidence”

  5. Seems PC exists in right wing ideologies also, although of course, it won’t be seen as such. Oh the irony. All the ranting about PC gone mad on the left and what’s replaced it?
    Heard exactly the same meme in the rural news here in NZ. An executive from a large stock and station company. Quote ” we don’t speculate on whether climate change is real, we just focus on what’s in front of us”, then on to “the winter was extremely wet over much of the country”, record wet actually in many areas. Effecting earnings apparently, especially in seed sales. The words dots and connect, come to mind?

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