Staff at the US Energy Department were reportedly told to stop using the phrases “climate change”, “emissions reduction” and “Paris Agreement” in all briefings and written communications, on the same day Donald Trump signed an executive order overturning most of Barack Obama’s regulations aimed at tackling global warming.
Employees at the department’s International Climate and Clean Energy office were told about the move in a meeting with a supervisor, according to the Politico website.
They were reportedly told that the words were causing a “visceral reaction” with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and White House advisers heading the department on Tuesday – the same day Mr Trump signed his order.
However, officials later claimed that the words have not been banned outright but that they were avoiding all climate-related terms in memos and briefings because of the direction the Trump administration was taking on environmental policy.
Department of Energy spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler told Politico: “No words or phrases have been banned for this office or anyone in the department.”
A State Department official also refuted the claim.
“We have definitively not received anything on banned words, not even orally,” they said. “But people are doing a lot of reading into tea leaves.”
The office has a crucial role in advancing clean technologies to mitigate the impact of climate change, but some have expressed concerns that it could be scrapped as part of Mr Trump’s plans.
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Reversing Obama-era rules aimed at tackling global warming, his executive order seeks to suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.
As part of the roll-back, Mr Trump – who has said climate change is a hoax – will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.
The regulation, which was his predecessor’s signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.
But environmentalists have denounced Mr Trump’s plan.
“By turning his back on US climate action, the Trump administration is threatening Americans’ health and the country’s economic prosperity. This will also diminish the United States’ standing in the world,” said Sam Adams, US director of the World Resources Institute.
Climate change expert and former Yale University academic, Tom Crowther, said it would destroy more jobs than it creates and he called the move as “brutal” and “insane”.
A January report from the Energy Department said less than 200,000 people work in coal, oil and natural gas, compared to more than 650,000 in wind, solar and biofuels.
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Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change who helped broker the Paris accord, also lamented Mr Trump’s executive order.
“Trying to make fossil fuels remain competitive in the face of a booming clean renewable power sector, with the clean air and plentiful jobs it continues to generate, is going against the flow of economics,” she said.
Governors, attorneys general and other senior state officials from 19 states, including from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Washington, have nonetheless reaffirmed their commitments to climate actions following Mr Trump’s executive order.