GOOD

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Is it 2017 or 1984? Two months into Trump’s presidency, we’re already asking ourselves that very question. According to Politico, an Energy Department administrator advised staff members to avoid the terms climate change, emissions reduction, and Paris Agreement in all forms of written communication. It was this past Tuesday that Department of Energy employees reportedly learned of the ban in a more formal setting, after casually avoiding climate-related language following Trump’s inauguration. That same day, Trump repealed the majority of former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations via a slew of executive orders.


Beyond setting a horrifying precedent, removing climate change from governmental communication presents several technical challenges. For starters, employees at the Office of International Climate and Clean Energy might be wondering what to call their place of work (in addition to worrying about the state of their jobs). In reference to this problem, Sierra Club climate policy director Liz Perera said in a statement, “What exactly is this office supposed to call itself now? The International C****** office? Ignoring the climate crisis will not make it go away, will not create jobs in the booming clean energy economy, and will not make our country great.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, DOE staff members told Politico that senior officials advised them not to use climate-related language as it would cause Energy Secretary Rick Perry a “visceral reaction” and would potentially offend White House advisers. In response to these claims of a severe lack of professionalism, DOE spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler said, “No words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department.” Still, with climate change deniers filling top White House positions, it’s not hard to imagine restrictions of speech have been suggested, if not formally enforced.

On a state level, such bans have been enforced with little backlash. Consider the handful of times Republican Governor Rick Scott allegedly pushed for climate-related language bans in Florida, a state whose very existence hangs in the balance because of rising sea levels. Banning words may seem innocuous—or even childish—at first, but denying reality has already put us in serious danger. It shouldn’t require our coastal communities drowning for us to realize the power of language.

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