Update (11:00am ET): The Trump transition team has agreed to temporarily “stand down” on its plans to take down the EPA’s climate change page, Inside EPA reports (paywall). The Office of General Counsel, a branch of the federal government, will review the implications of taking the page offline, according to Inside EPA.
Publicly-funded science on climate change is about to disappear from its home on the internet, Reuters reports. The Trump administration reportedly plans to order the removal of the climate-change pages from the US Environmental Protection Agency website, one of the main sources of climate-change information to the public.
The page, epa.gov/climate, houses links to the agency’s vast troves of climate data, such as information on greenhouse-gas emissions and peer-reviewed research on global warming. It could come down as soon as today, according to Reuters’ source. By last night (Jan. 24), links to the EPA’s voluntary climate-change programs—those not required by federal law—had already disappeared from the website, reported Inside EPA (paywall).
“If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” an EPA staffer told Reuters.
The move is drastic but unsurprising for a president who has called climate change a hoax and has already imposed a media blackout on the EPA. Myron Ebell, who ran Trump’s EPA transition team, is a climate-change denier and vocal opponent of measures to address climate change and other environmental issues. Scott Pruitt, the president’s nominee to run the agency, equivocated about climate change at his confirmation hearing.
It’s not clear whether taking down the EPA climate-change pages means deleting them or just making them unavailable from the EPA’s website. Either way, the most important data won’t be lost. Anticipating this exact event, a grassroots “data rescue” effort by independent programmers and archivists has downloaded and stored some of the most critical data sets from the EPA’s website, as well as from other federal agencies that deal with environmental issues. The participants feared a repeat of what happened in Canada in 2014, when Stephen Harper’s government muzzled climate scientists and made certain research science harder to access.
Such “data rescue” events have popped up at universities over the last six weeks, where scientists, librarians, and IT professionals copy complete government webpages and upload them to the Internet Archive as well as a searchable database (datarefuge.org) currently being built to house raw data. The next such event is taking place at New York University on Feb. 4. These groups have captured and stored most of the EPA’s web pages, including epa.gov/climate.
Several reports also suggest that federal employees at the EPA and the Department of Energy, another major hub of publicly-funded climate science, are scrambling to save years of their work.