There’s a lot going on! Here’s a news roundup. I will separately talk about what the Azimuth Climate Data Backup Project is doing.
I’ll start with the bad news, and then go on to some good news.
Tweaking the EPA website
Scientists are keeping track of how Trump administration is changing the Environmental Protection Agency website, with before-and-after photos, and analysis:
• Brian Kahn, Behold the “tweaks” Trump has made to the EPA website (so far), National Resources Defense Council blog, 3 February 2017.
There’s more about “adaptation” to climate change, and less about how it’s caused by carbon emissions.
All of this would be nothing compared to the new bill to eliminate the EPA, or Myron Ebell’s plan to fire most of the people working there:
• Joe Davidson, Trump transition leader’s goal is two-thirds cut in EPA employees, Washington Post, 30 January 2017.
If you want to keep track of this battle, I recommend getting a 30-day free subscription to this online magazine:
Taking animal welfare data offline
The Trump team is taking animal-welfare data offline. The US Department of Agriculture will no longer make lab inspection results and violations publicly available, citing privacy concerns:
• Sara Reardon, US government takes animal-welfare data offline, Nature Breaking News, 3 Feburary 2017.
Restricting access to geospatial data
A new bill would prevent the US government from providing access to geospatial data if it helps people understand housing discrimination. It goes like this:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing._
For more on this bill, and the important ways in which such data has been used, see:
• Abraham Gutman, Scott Burris, and the Temple University Center for Public Health Law Research, Where will data take the Trump administration on housing?, Philly.com, 1 February 2017.
The EDGI fights back
The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative or EDGI is working to archive public environmental data. They’re helping coordinate data rescue events. You can attend one and have fun eating pizza with cool people while saving data:
• 3 February 2017, Portland
• 4 February 2017, New York City
• 10-11 February 2017, Austin Texas
• 11 February 2017, U. C. Berkeley, California
• 18 February 2017, MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts
• 18 February 2017, Haverford Connecticut
• 18-19 February 2017, Washington DC
• 26 February 2017, Twin Cities, Minnesota
Or, work with EDGI to organize one your own data rescue event! They provide some online tools to help download data.
I know there will also be another event at UCLA, so the above list is not complete, and it will probably change and grow over time. Keep up-to-date at their site:
• Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.
Scientists fight back
The pushback is so big it’s hard to list it all! For now I’ll just quote some of this article:
• Tabitha Powledge, The gag reflex: Trump info shutdowns at US science agencies, especially EPA, 27 January 2017.
THE PUSHBACK FROM SCIENCE HAS BEGUN
Predictably, counter-tweets claiming to come from rebellious employees at the EPA, the Forest Service, the USDA, and NASA sprang up immediately. At The Verge, Rich McCormick says there’s reason to believe these claims may be genuine, although none has yet been verified. A lovely head on this post: “On the internet, nobody knows if you’re a National Park.”
At Hit&Run, Ronald Bailey provides handles for several of these alt tweet streams, which he calls “the revolt of the permanent government.” (That’s a compliment.)
Bailey argues, “with exception perhaps of some minor amount of national security intelligence, there is no good reason that any information, data, studies, and reports that federal agencies produce should be kept from the public and press. In any case, I will be following the Alt_Bureaucracy feeds for a while.”
NeuroDojo Zen Faulkes posted on how to demand that scientific societies show some backbone. “Ask yourself: “Have my professional societies done anything more political than say, ‘Please don’t cut funding?’” Will they fight?,” he asked.
Scientists associated with the group_ 500 Women Scientists _donned lab coats and marched in DC as part of the Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s Inauguration, Robinson Meyer reported at the Atlantic. A wildlife ecologist from North Carolina told Meyer, “I just can’t believe we’re having to yell, ‘Science is real.’”
Taking a cue from how the Women’s March did its social media organizing, other scientists who want to set up a Washington march of their own have put together a closed Facebook group that claims more than 600,000 members, Kate Sheridan writes at STAT.
The #ScienceMarch Twitter feed says a date for the march will be posted in a few days. [The march will be on 22 April 2017.] The group also plans to release tools to help people interested in local marches coordinate their efforts and avoid duplication.
At The Atlantic, Ed Yong describes the political action committee 314Action. (314=the first three digits of pi.)
Among other political activities, it is holding a webinar on Pi Day—March 14—to explain to scientists how to run for office. Yong calls 314Action the science version of Emily’s List, which helps pro-choice candidates run for office. 314Action says it is ready to connect potential candidate scientists with mentors—and donors.
Other groups may be willing to step in when government agencies wimp out. A few days before the Inauguration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly and with no explanation cancelled a 3-day meeting on the health effects of climate change scheduled for February. Scientists told Ars Technica’s Beth Mole that CDC has a history of running away from politicized issues.
One of the conference organizers from the American Public Health Association was quoted as saying nobody told the organizers to cancel.
I believe it. Just one more example of the chilling effect on global warming. In politics, once the Dear Leader’s wishes are known, some hirelings will rush to gratify them without being asked.
The APHA guy said they simply wanted to head off a potential last-minute cancellation. Yeah, I guess an anticipatory pre-cancellation would do that.
But then—Al Gore to the rescue! He is joining with a number of health groups—including the American Public Health Association—to hold a one-day meeting on the topic Feb 16 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, CDC’s home base. Vox’s Julia Belluz reports that it is not clear whether CDC officials will be part of the Gore rescue event.
The Sierra Club fights back
The Sierra Club, of which I’m a proud member, is using the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA to battle or at least slow the deletion of government databases. They wisely started even before Trump took power:
• Jennifer A Dlouhy, Fearing Trump data purge, environmentalists push to get records, BloombergMarkets, 13 January 2017.
Here’s how the strategy works:
U.S. government scientists frantically copying climate data they fear will disappear under the Trump administration may get extra time to safeguard the information, courtesy of a novel legal bid by the Sierra Club.
The environmental group is turning to open records requests to protect the resources and keep them from being deleted or made inaccessible, beginning with information housed at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. On Thursday [January 9th], the organization filed Freedom of Information Act requests asking those agencies to turn over a slew of records, including data on greenhouse gas emissions, traditional air pollution and power plants.
The rationale is simple: Federal laws and regulations generally block government agencies from destroying files that are being considered for release. Even if the Sierra Club’s FOIA requests are later rejected, the record-seeking alone could prevent files from being zapped quickly. And if the records are released, they could be stored independently on non-government computer servers, accessible even if other versions go offline.