Dear EPA Staff, We Fixed Your Climate Change Talking Points for You

March 29, 2018 | 6:30 pm
Astrid Caldas
Senior Climate Scientist

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a memo to some of its employees with “talking points” regarding climate change science and adaptation. The talking points make some plainly inaccurate claims about climate science and fail to offer employees any guidance about how to talk to communities about climate change adaptation and mitigation. In fact, it does not mention mitigation at all.

In the interest of scientific clarity, I figured I’d make some edits to make the guidance more useful for the states, cities, and tribes that the EPA is supposed to serve. (Original talking points are in black, edits in red.)

The red-lined version below should be helpful in developing not only adaptation, but also mitigation strategies and policies to address the challenges faced when dealing with climate change impacts.


Dear colleagues:

As communities across the country are facing climate impacts every day—from rising seas to more frequent and extensive wildfires to more extreme weather events—it’s important that those communities know we won’t let them down. During the recent meeting of our cross-EPA Work Group on Climate Adaptation, several individuals suggested it would be helpful to develop consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts that could be used across all Program and Regional Offices. I’m pleased to report that the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has developed a set of talking points about climate change that include several related to climate adaptation. These talking points were distributed by Nancy Grantham (OPA) to the Communications Directors and the Regional Public Affairs Directors.

The following are talking points distributed by OPA. I have highlighted those relating They all relate specifically to our adaptation and mitigation work. As the states and communities we serve are most interested in what we do know about climate change and its impacts, we should use the best available science and not overemphasize uncertainty, as we will always have more to learn.

  • EPA recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate and mitigating its effects.
  • EPA works with state, local, and tribal governments to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and to support the transition to clean, renewable energy resources that will help mitigate climate change and natural disasters.
  • EPA also promotes and adequately funds science that helps inform states, municipalities, and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies.
  • Moving forward, EPA will continue to advance its climate adaptation efforts, and has reconvened the cross-EPA Adaptation Working Group in support of these efforts.
  • Human activity impacts our changing climate, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact is well documented. In fact, we are already seeing climate change impacts today, such as sea level rise, droughts, and extreme weather events and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue. (see National Climate Assessment’s Climate Science Special Report and statements from major scientific societies).
  • While tThere has been extensive research and a host of published reports regarding climate change that clearly demonstrate that burning fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and oil—and deforestation are responsible for the changing climate. Reducing emissions from fossil fuels swiftly and deeply is essential to limiting the impacts of climate change. clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it. 
  • As a key regulatory voice, it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of how the changing climate these gaps given their potentially significant influence on our country’s has negative consequences for the domestic US economyic viability.
  • Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent discussion debate on the risks and solutions available to meet the climate challenge, as well as additional research that will make us better prepared to solve the climate crisis. on climate science.

Please note that these talking points are guidance only; as an EPA subject matter expert, your responsibility is to communicate truthfully and accurately. The EPA Scientific Integrity Policy states that when “dealing with science, it is the responsibility of every EPA employee to conduct, utilize, and communicate science with honesty, integrity, and transparency, both within and outside the Agency.” The policy also states that employees can “freely exercise their right to express their personal views provided they specify that they are…speaking…in a private capacity.”

Thanks, and best regards to all of you.