Fearing the possibility of censorship by the incoming President-elect Donald Trump administration, climate scientists are taking dramatic measures to archive data that they believe could come under threat.
Among the measures being taken are a Toronto-based "guerrilla archiving" event, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania to strategize how best to back-up the data, and a website called Climate Mirror that's crowdsourcing the server space needed to host government datasets, reports The Washington Post.
"Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic," Nick Santos, environmental researcher at the University of California, Davis told The Post. "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."
The efforts began when Eric Holthaus, meteorologist and self-titled "climate hawk," tweeted an appeal: "Scientists: Do you have a US .gov climate database that you don’t want to see disappear?"
Responses began to flood in to preserve datasets from NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, the EPA, the CDC, and numerous state-level agencies that store data. Holthaus began compiling the requests in a Google Doc, which can be found in the "Sources" section below this article. At the time of this writing, there are 80 requested datasets listed.
This wouldn't be the first time that scientists had to navigate an administration hostile to data that suggests that humans caused climate change. Jim Estes, a former USGS ecologist during the President George W. Bush years, told NPR that one day, his agency suddenly required that politicians review any research generated by USGS before it could be sent for publication.
"It just smacked to me of scientific censorship," Estes says. "It provided a vehicle by which the agency could control scientists. No one liked it, but none of them would stand up and resist."
Estes said that Trump gives him particular concern. "This guy is such a chameleon, you have no idea what the hell is going to happen."
Margaret Leinen, who worked at the National Science Foundation under the Bush administration, knows from experience that campaign talk doesn't always pan out into policy. Regarding Bush, she said, "There were several things that he said on the campaign trail regarding the environment and climate which eventually ... were moderated."