Scientists are scrambling to download troves of climate data collected by government agencies that they fear could disappear under a Trump administration, according to Motherboard and The Washington Post. Efforts include saving the data on independent servers and making it available on websites. The concern is that once Donald Trump becomes president and takes control of the .gov websites hosting climate data collected by agencies like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that data could be whitewashed or made inaccessible.
That concern is justified. Trump has repeatedly called human-caused climate change a “hoax.” He picked a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and the CEO of ExxonMobil to be secretary of state. His pick to lead the Department of Energy, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is also a climate denier and has censored climate scientists in his home state. Trump’s team also requested Energy Department officials to provide the names of civil service employees who attended climate meetings and worked on climate issues during the Obama administration. (The DOE refused to provide the names.)
The Trump transition team hasn’t answered questions about what will happen to climate data, so the scientific community is bracing for the worst. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus asked scientists to add government climate databases to a Google spreadsheet, so that the data can be copied and saved on independent servers.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have also been meeting up with institutions like Azavea, Open Data Philly, and Science Outreach Initiative to figure out a way to safely store scientific data, according to The Washington Post. This weekend, another meeting at the University of Toronto called Guerrilla Archiving will seek “to archive the federal online pages and data that are in danger of disappearing during the Trump administration.”
Another project, called the “End of Term Web Archive,” tries to archive content on government websites before every presidential transition. The project, which is run by several university and also the Library of Congress, did the same work at the end of the 2008 and 2012 terms. This year, the project’s leaders are sensing more urgency than before, and they’re expected to collect between 30 and 40 terabytes of information from government’s websites, according to Motherboard.
The scientific community isn’t being paranoid. During the George W. Bush administration, there was widespread censorship of climate change information; data on global warming on government websites was not updated promptly. A top NASA scientist, James E. Hansen, also accused the Bush administration of trying to silence him on matters of climate change.
In view of Trump administration’s appointments so far, the feeling in the scientific community for now is better safe than sorry.