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A visualization of global warming trends published by NASA on Jan. 20, 2016, one year to the day before Donald Trump takes office. (Photo: NASA.gov)

A visualization of global warming trends published by NASA on Jan. 20, 2016, one year to the day before Donald Trump takes office. (Photo: NASA.gov)

Scientists Racing to Archive Climate Data Before Denier-in-Chief Trump Takes Office

"Scientists are right to preserve data and archive websites before those who want to dismantle federal climate change research programs storm the castle"

Lauren McCauley

Anticipating the worst under the incoming administration, a group of scientists are frantically trying to archive government climate data before President-elect Donald Trump's "band of climate conspiracy theorists...storm the castle," as one put it.

On Saturday, Slate meterologist Eric Holthaus posed the question: "Scientists: Do you have a US.gov climate database that you don't want to see disappear? Add it here," he wrote. "Please share."

The response was "overwhelming," Holthaus said Sunday, "We still need more input, more database names. I want to make sure no data is lost on Jan 20."

Suggestions range from NASA's scientific consensus on global warming, to the Environmental Protection Agency's map of the nation's worst greenhouse gas emitters, to NOAA's documentation of sea level trends.

In addition to the flood of responses, "Investors offered to help fund efforts to copy and safeguard key climate data. Lawyers offered pro bono legal help. Database experts offered to help organize mountains of data and to house it with free server space," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

With nearly 60 government climate datasets flagged for preservation, Holthaus announced Tuesday that the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) would be taking leadership of the project under its Climate #DataRefuge website.

"While the situation in the U.S. is uncertain, common sense dictates 'better safe than sorry,'" wrote the academic collective. "That is, our Canadian collaborators at the University of Toronto witnessed first-hand how having a climate denier in office impacted accessibility to climate and environmental data," referring to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's censorship of government scientists.

"The precautionary principle would suggest the need for action to safeguard access to data sooner rather than later," PPEH added.

Not such a bad idea, given that Trump has appointed a "band of climate conspiracy theorists" to run his transition as well as a number of environmental agencies, as Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy, explained to the Post

"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," Halpern continued. "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."

In addition to the archive, PPEH and Penn Libraries are holding a #DataRescue event in Philadelphia on January 13-14 to discuss vulnerable data, "consulting with an array of scholars from fields ranging from climate modeling to arts activism...in order to identify priorities given that we cannot download the internet."

Similarly, researchers at the University of Toronto are holding a "Guerrilla archiving event" on Saturday, focused specifically "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," the organizers said.


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