On Monday, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) released a new report on how the Trump administration has altered the use of climate change-related terms on federal websites.
In their latest report, “The New Digital Landscape: How The Trump Administration Has Undermined Federal Web Infrastructures For Climate Information,” EDGI analyzed 5,301 federal government webpages covering environmental issues from an array of agencies, including the EPA, USDA, FEMA, and HHS, and tallied the use of various climate change-related terms on them. The group found that “the use of the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘clean energy,’ and ‘adaptation’ dropped by 26% between 2016 and 2018.” The use of the term “climate change” itself decreased from 6,552 mentions in 2016 to 4,912 in 2018. By contrast, terms such as “energy independence,” “resilience,” and “sustainability” increased by 26%. These “catch-all terms” undermine the focus on politicized terms and suggest that the administration has opted to weaken the language around environmental concerns on federal websites.
The reduction in the use of terms related to climate change follows a trend that EDGI has reported on in the past. Since the group formed in late 2016, they have published a number of web monitoring reports detailing the removal of content from federal government environmental websites. In January 2018, EDGI released a report titled “Changing the Digital Climate: How Climate Change Web Content is Being Censored Under the Trump Administration,” which documented the widespread overhaul and removal of federal environmental documents, webpages, and websites.
The Web Integrity Project (WIP) has its roots in EDGI’s Web Monitoring Team. Two of WIP’s founders, Andrew Bergman and Toly Rinberg, worked with EDGI before starting WIP, and our analyst, Aaron Lemelin, has volunteered with EDGI since 2017.