“The cleansing continues,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “But they’re not going to be able to erase the science, or the truth, by scrubbing websites.”
The changes were revealed in a report by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a group of nonprofits and academics who monitor what they call “potential threats” to federal policy and scientific research on energy and the environment.
But Christine Flowers, the NIEHS director of communications, downplayed the changes Wednesday. She said she made them as she added and moved information on the site over a period of months.
“It’s a minor change to a title page,” Flowers said of one headline alteration, “but the information we provide remains the same. In fact, it’s been expanded.”
The phrase “climate change” still can be found several times in the text below the headline that now reads “Climate and Human Health.” Also still available is a “Climate Change and Human Health Literature Portal.”
Similar word changes have been made on Interior Department, Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency website pages that mentioned climate change. Scientists inside and outside the government have questioned the motivations because of top Trump administration officials' doubts about how much human activity influences global warming.
In some cases, though, career staffers may have been responsible for the new wording on sites in an effort to avoid administration scrutiny on hot-button issues. The EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities site was renamed before President Trump took office — to “Creating Resilient Water Utilities.”
In April, the EPA took down several website pages that contained detailed climate data and scientific information. That action, on the eve of a large demonstration in Washington about protecting the environment, included removal of a Web page explaining climate change that had been on the site for nearly two decades.
The NIEHS, one of 27 institutes and centers that comprise the NIH, focuses on the environment's impact on health. Most of NIH, the nation's premier biomedical research campus, is in Bethesda, Md., but the NIEHS is in Research Triangle Park, N.C.