Scientists Rush to Backup Climate Data
Since President Trump’s inauguration, the climate change page at whitehouse.gov disappeared. Reuters also reported that climate references were to be removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, though it appears that’s been delayed. And that has many researchers worried about the status of critical climate data hosted on government websites.
LISTEN: Your Environment Update for January 25, 2017
Groups across the country are now backing up everything from satellite imagery to pollution inventories so they’ll be public and accessible in the event they are removed or deleted. They hope the effort will ensure climate research isn’t slowed down, regardless of the politics of the Trump administration.
Reporter Zahra Hirji of InsideClimate News recently wrote about efforts to save such data, including a project in Philadelphia.
“Data sets are going to be — and are being — uploaded onto a separate server,” Hirji says. “The effort is called DataRefuge, and it’s being handled by the University of Pennsylvania. But they’re collaborating with a bunch of different universities, as well as other scientists and the general public. They held an event a couple weekends ago in Pennsylvania where more than 250 people helped with this archiving and cataloging project. And since then, there’s been one in Chicago, Indianapolis and L.A.”
Hirji says many more events are planned, and it’s hard to say when this collective effort to backup key climate data could be deemed ‘complete.’
“There’s just so much data that it’s not going to be a quick process. I think they probably feel the pressure to work fast. Some scientists are literally volunteering weeks of their time to download certain data sets that they work with.”
You can read Hirji’s full report on the DataRefuge project here.
What’s Up with Trump and the EPA?
It’s been a week of big changes — and turmoil — at the Environmental Protection Agency. First, President Trump ordered a freeze on EPA grants and contracts, which has implications for a wide variety of projects — including state-led climate research and hazardous waste cleanups.
Trump also barred the EPA from communicating with the public. That means no press releases or social media posts from the agency.
Christie Todd Whitman, EPA director under President George W. Bush, says agency scientists will only support Trump’s yet-to-be-confirmed EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, if he demonstrates that he wants to protect public health and the environment.
“You will have leaks, you will have whistle blowers; you have those at the agency with whistle blower status, which means you can’t fire them,” Whitman says. “And they can get the message out — and they will. It’s just going to be very uncomfortable. Not much is going to get done. And that’s really dangerous for us — for the people.”
Whitman says, in some years, dirty air is linked to more deaths than car accidents. And agency scientists will have a hard time supporting Trump’s “alternative facts” and his anti-science, anti-environmental regulation sentiments.