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The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document last week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.

The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA's own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that "most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out."

Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the rest of the world. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires. Another scientific paper, co-written by EPA researchers, found that unless the United States slashes carbon emissions, climate change will probably cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually by 2100.

The divergence between Wheeler and his own agency offers the latest example of the often contradictory way that federal climate policy has evolved under President Donald Trump. As the White House has sought to minimize or ignore climate science, government experts have continued to sound the alarm.

The president has said he intends to withdraw the nation from a key international climate accord, but last fall 13 agencies issued a report concluding that "the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and continues to strengthen, that the impacts of climate change are intensifying across the country, and that climate-related threats to Americans' physical, social, and economic well-being are rising."

The White House has sought ways to question the broad scientific consensus that human activities are driving climate change, and it is considering creating a federal advisory panel to re-examine those findings. But while the National Security Council is still pursuing the task force proposal, it has encountered resistance from military and intelligence officials as well as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Trump officials often home in on references to climate change in key documents.

In the case of Wednesday's guidance from the EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management, documents show, the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs sought to downplay climate change's effect on the intensity of natural disasters. But these efforts, first reported by E&E News, did not entirely remove those references.

The document published Wednesday in the Federal Register repeatedly makes the link between climate change and more-severe floods, wildfires and storms.

While the White House struck one phrase attributing extreme weather events to climate change, the document still refers to "climate change" and "a changing climate" 22 times.

Asked Friday about the document, the EPA declined to comment.

A Section on 04/28/2019

Print Headline: EPA's document at odds with chief on climate change

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