EPA talking points downplay role of human activity in climate change

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(CNN)The Environmental Protection Agency has circulated new talking points instructing staffers to say that "clear gaps" exist in understanding whether human activity contributes to climate change.

"While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it," according to talking points obtained by HuffPost Wednesday and later confirmed to CNN by the EPA.
"Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner," another talking point reads. "The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue."
The eight talking points were distributed to EPA communications directors and regional public affairs directors by the agency's Office of Public Affairs and sent internally via email by Joel Scheraga, that office's senior adviser for climate adaptation.
    Without addressing the shift in the agency's approach to climate change, an EPA spokesperson said in a statement, "The talking points were developed by the Office of Public Affairs. The agency's work on climate adaptation continues under the leadership of Dr. Scheraga."
    The talking points also include that the agency "promotes science that helps inform states, municipalities, and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies."
    The EPA has approached the issue of climate change differently under Administrator Scott Pruitt's leadership. Pruitt has acknowledged that climate change is a reality, but has questioned the extent to which it is caused by human activities and the authority of his agency to regulate it.
    The last talking point in the email reads: "Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science."
    At the end of last year, the EPA removed references to climate change and the use of renewable energy from several of its web pages, according to an analysis by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative. The phrase "climate change" did not appear in the EPA's draft four-year strategic plan, striking it as a priority.
    A climate science special report published last year by the US Global Change Research Program -- made up of 13 federal agencies, including the EPA -- concluded that "it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century" and that "there is no convincing alternative explanation."