Scientists in the United States are making copies of federal climate and environmental data over fears it could be erased under Donald Trump's administration.
The mass action — being coordinated by the University of Pennsylvania's Program in the Environmental Humanities (PPEH Lab) — has been dubbed a "data rescue" and has brought together academics from across the country and in neighbouring Canada. It aims to safeguard data "vulnerable under an administration which denies the fact of ongoing climate change" by storing it on an independent server. Researchers are also collating a spreadsheet of the research they deem to be at risk once the President-elect takes office on January 20. The movement was spurred by a tweet from meteorologist and journalist Eric Holthaus, who became worried after Mr Trump announced he would be appointing Exxon-Mobil Corp chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state.
"I want to make sure no data is lost on Jan 20," he tweeted. In Canada, the University of Toronto has joined efforts by organising a "guerrilla archiving hackathon" to help upload the data onto the the San Franscisco-based non-profit digital library, The Internet Archive. "This project is urgent because the Trump transition team has identified the EPA and other environmental programs as priorities for the chopping block," a Facebook page for the event said.
'It's a 21st-century book burning'
Mr Trump made it known that he was a climate sceptic during his election campaign. He said he believed global warming was invented by China to hurt the competitiveness of US business and vowed to cancel the Paris Agreement.
That prompted nearly 400 global scientists, including the world-renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, to pen a scathing open letter warning of the dire consequences for the environment if he was elected.
Since then Mr Trump has softened his stance on the Paris deal, suggesting he might be willing to allow the United States to remain as a participant. But news that Oklahoma attorney-general Scott Pruitt will lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has further inflamed tensions. In a statement, Mr Pruitt was described as "a national leader against the EPA's job-killing war on coal". In a piece for The Washington Post, Holthaus yesterday wrote that archiving climate data was "an extraordinary step to have to take, but we live in an extraordinary moment". "There is no remaining doubt that Trump is serious about overtly declaring war on science," he said. "This isn't a presidential transition. It's an Inquisition. It's a 21st-century book burning."