Scientists have resorted to “guerrilla archiving” climate data, fearing it might all vanish when Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States in January. Researchers have been feverishly copy-pasting tons of government data, currently on federal servers, onto independent private servers, in the hopes of safeguarding the same from hostile political interference.
A “guerrilla archiving” essentially means data experts access and copy any publicly available, but potentially vulnerable data. One such event pertaining especially to climate change is currently underway in Toronto, Canada. Moreover, researchers at University of Pennsylvania have been conducting meetings to figure out just how much federal data, currently in the public domain, could be downloaded and copied in the weeks leading up to January.
Scientists and database experts have been jointly working on compiling a centralized digital location to park crucial scientific information in digital repositories for later access. While the possibility of a complete erasure is rather slim, it is a possibility, cautioned Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California at Davis.
“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. Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”
Why is the scientific community, focused on climate change, concerned? Republican President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t explicitly mentioned it, but he has implied on several occasions that he is not a firm believer in “man-made climate change.” In fact, on numerous occasions, Trump has claimed that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China to make the United States manufacturing “non-competitive.”
In recent weeks, Donald Trump has nominated a growing list of Cabinet members who have routinely challenged scientific consensus around global warming. His choices have been known to deny climate change, and reportedly lashed out at the scientific community for suggesting that climate change is a man-made calamity, and that it is a clear and present danger. One of Trump’s top advisors was recently reported to suggest that NASA should shutter its sub-department focused on climate research. Trump himself feels that NASA should focus on space exploration only.
Worryingly, the president-elect’s transition team at the Department of Energy recently asked agency officials for names of employees and contractors who have participated in international climate talks and worked on the scientific basis for Obama administration-era regulations of carbon emissions, reported the Washington Post. There could be a standoff brewing because the U.S. Department of Energy, currently under President Barack Obama, has refused President-elect Trump’s request to turn over the names of climate researchers.
Donald Trump might stay true to his words, calling man-made climate change a “hoax,” and could effectively reverse a large number of policies painstakingly enacted by President Obama during his eight-year tenure, fear scientists. Researchers are concerned Trump might significantly alter, dismantle or derail critical ongoing projects that monitor the rapidly changing sea levels, growing number of wildfires, and many more that support the theory about artificially induced climate change.
Trump is being accused of siding with a “band of climate conspiracy theorists.” Interestingly, Trump displayed a remarkable change in attitude towards climate change, when he acknowledged there’s “human connectivity.” The President-elect even vowed to “keep an open mind.” Moreover, neither Trump nor his transition team has ever explicitly said they would manipulate or curtail publicly available data.
However, scientists aren’t taking any chances. Within a span of few days, scientists have collated all the important government climate assets into a Google spreadsheet.
Climate data, collected by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has remained vulnerable to political agendas. Hence, scientists are working to figure out ways to harvest and store important data sets before they risk permanent erasure.
[Featured Image by Alain Jocard/Getty Images]