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Caribou migrate in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration argues that oil drilling in ANWR would not meaningfully contribute to climate change.

How Trump agencies' NEPA reviews lowball climate impacts

Trump administration officials tend to talk around climate change, but in official documents, they outline an unfolding crisis of extinctions, flooding and fire.

Agencies under President Trump are cataloging climate impacts in the mandatory environmental reviews that precede major federal actions. They describe worsening damage to virtually every ecosystem, from entire forests down to the ocean's smallest life forms. But officials use those same documents to minimize the connection between that damage and human-caused emissions, especially when the government is considering the impacts of fossil fuel projects, like drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

What emerges from these documents is a story of the Trump administration in microcosm. While officials tell the public not to worry about climate change, they're running departments that warn of massive damage already unfolding. The administration masks its contribution to that damage by pointing to the small impact of individual oil wells and coal mines — a distraction, experts say, from its energy agenda's huge cumulative impact.

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