Donald Trump isn’t exactly a stickler for facts and he has made it clear that he is not convinced that climate change is real. Heck, he doesn’t necessarily even believe that science is real. Maybe global warming is just a Chinese “hoax,” right? And the people he has picked for his cabinet are far from environmentally friendly.
Well, scientists have taken notice and are taking action. They are scrambling to copy U.S. climate data before Trump’s administration has the chance to make it all just disappear.
The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.
Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis, is one of the scientists who is not risking it. Over the weekend he started copying government climate data onto a public server.
“Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you’d want to hedge against,” Santos said. “Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully, they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”
Michael Halpern, who is the deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, said in an email that the people Trump has picked to head up government agencies so far have been a “band of climate conspiracy theorists.”
“They have been salivating at the possibility of dismantling federal climate research programs for years. It’s not unreasonable to think they would want to take down the very data that they dispute,” he wrote. “There is a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, and scientists are doing their best to be prepared. . . . Scientists are right to preserve data and archive websites before those who want to dismantle federal climate change research programs storm the castle.”
Trump has never said he intends to manipulate scientific data, but scientists located across the country aren’t taking chances. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are feverishly trying to figure out the best ways to copy and preserve their data.
The University of Toronto is holding a “guerrilla archiving” event this weekend to collect vital federal environmental data before Trump takes office. According to organizers, the event “is focused on preserving information and data from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has programs and data at high risk of being removed from online public access or even deleted. This includes climate change, water, air, toxics programs.”
Lawyers with the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund will be available to meet one-on-one with concerned researchers at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco. The organization is also handing out booklets at the event titled, “Handling Political Harassment and Legal Intimidation: A Pocket Guide for Scientists.”
“We literally thought about it the day after the election,” said Lauren Kurtz, the legal defense fund’s executive director. “I have gotten a lot of calls from scientists who are really concerned. . . . So it’s intended in some ways to be reassuring, to say, ‘There is a game plan; we’re here to help you.’”
Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who describes himself as a “climate hawk,” issued a call to action via Twitter on Saturday when he posted, “Scientists: Do you have a US .gov climate database that you don’t want to see disappear?” Mountains of data immediately began pouring in.
“I don’t actually think that it will happen,” he said of the possibility that Trump’s administration could alter or destroy scientific data. “But I think it could happen. . . . All of these data sets are priceless, in the sense that if there is a gap, it greatly diminishes their usefulness.”
Featured image via University of Hull