Since Trump’s election, scientists have been scrambling to save climate change data sets. And one Michigan graduate student thought the more copies, the better.
It wasn’t long after President Trump took office that chaos took hold at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Throughout his campaign, Trump promised to rid mostly the country of the agency, leaving just “little tidbits left.” He wasted little time.
Out of the gate, Trump’s transition team was set to remove former President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan and other climate data, reported InsideEPA on Jan. 17. Trump officials told EPA staff on Jan. 24 to remove the agency’s climate change page from its website, according to Science. The next day, EPA staffers were told to hold off. Then, two days later, the words “climate change” were erased from the EPA site altogether. Then they were back.
Many scientists didn’t wait to find out what was up, what was down, or what was going which way. At risk was years of data on greenhouse gas emissions, temperature trends, sea level rise, and shrinking sea ice – data essential to our understanding of the enormous environmental shifts our planet is undergoing. Worldwide, they scrambled to capture the information from the websites of the EPA, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Geological Survey. Hackathons were organized to download the data to university servers and sites like DataRefuge and the Internet Archive for the fear that Scott Pruitt would be confirmed as head of the EPA; he was confirmed by the Senate on Friday.