Department of Interior Scrubs Climate Change from its Strategic Plan

Published Oct 27, 2017

A leaked draft of the Department of Interior’s strategic plan for 2018-2022 eliminated all mention of climate change and instead prioritized energy production on public lands. 

What Happened: A leaked draft of the Department of Interior’s strategic plan for 2018-2022 eliminated all mention of climate change and instead prioritized energy production on public lands.

Why It Matters: The Department of the Interior carries out some of the nation’s most important climate science work. Shuttering those programs and ignoring the threats posed by climate change puts both vulnerable communities and the environment at risk.

The 2014-2018 strategic plan for the Department of the Interior (DOI), the last one published by the Obama administration, mentioned “climate change” 46 times. In a leaked draft of DOI’s latest five-year plan, covering 2018-2022, “climate change” is not mentioned at all. Although science has linked climate change to multiple environmental impacts, including many that directly affect public lands—such as catastrophic wildfires in the west and the loss of tribal resources—the leaked draft showcases the DOI’s disregard for this critical topic under Trump.

The draft blueprint saves concern for harnessing “the vast amounts of untapped domestic energy reserves on public lands.” The new plan “places a premium on facilitating oil and gas development” and one of DOI’s “key performance indicators for the next five years will be the number of acres of public lands made available for oil and natural-gas leasing.”

The new plan stands in stark contrast to its predecessor, which made dealing with climate change a central piece of the Department’s roadmap. According to the 2014-2018 plan, on the issue of “Increasing Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience,” the Department would “bring the best science to bear to understand these consequences and will undertake mitigation, adaptation, and enhancements to support natural resilience and will take steps to reduce carbon pollution, including through responsible development of clean energy.”

The abrupt about-face by Trump’s DOI likely puts vital government programs on climate change, such as those at the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at risk. These programs are critical to ensuring that the government understands the harmful impacts of climate change and enacts the best policies to manage its effects.

Eliminating mentions of climate change does not eliminate its effects, and ignoring climate change science only stands to harm people and the environment. As the 2014-2018 plan noted of climate change, “Impacts observed by Federal resource managers include drought, severe flooding, interrupted pollination of crops, changes in wildlife and prey behavior, warmer rivers and streams, and sea level rise.” Climate change has significant impacts on public lands, yet in the draft plan Zinke’s department willfully ignores the part of its mission that mandates DOI protect the nation’s natural resources.

The Trump administration has been silencing climate scientists and tamping down on climate science-related communications across the federal government. This draft plan at DOI shows a clear continuation of its pattern for disregarding the reality of climate change including deleting references to climate change on the agency’s website and reprimanding officials for speaking out on climate change science.