Remember that scene in The Empire Strikes Back, where the Rebel Alliance are frantically downloading as much data as possible as AT-AT Walkers and Imperial Snowtroopers are knocking rather violently at their door? Well, the exact same thing is happening right now in the United States.
Okay, to be fair, it’s not exactly the same thing, but the incoming Trump Empire is seemingly hell-bent on destroying the nation’s legacy on climate change research. From the orange one’s frequent nomination of denialists for top cabinet jobs to the transition team’s witch hunt at the Department of Energy (DoE), America’s future as a world leader on climate science looks bleak.
As a direct response to this incoming storm of ignorance, scientists all across the nation are working together to back up their climate data, transferring it from federal servers to independent ones in the hope of stopping it being interfered with or abused by the Trump administration. The data is also being made available to the public free of charge.
“Something that seemed a little paranoid to me before all of a sudden seems potentially realistic, or at least something you’d want to hedge against,” Nick Santos, an environmental researcher at the University of California, Davis, told the Washington Post.
“Doing this can only be a good thing. Hopefully they leave everything in place. But if not, we’re planning for that.”
Neither the transition team, nor Trump himself, has stated that they hope to do anything malevolent with climate data. However, considering that a large number of cabinet nominees ardently believe that there is no proven link between climate change and human activity, it’s clearly better to be safe than sorry.
As pointed out by Inverse, there's even a plan to get the a lot more data, not just scientific data, to servers in Canada, where US jurisdiction does not apply. Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library, is leading one such initiative.
"The history of libraries is one of loss," their recent blog post on the subject notes. "The Library of Alexandria is best known for its disappearance."
"So this year, we have set a new goal: to create a copy of Internet Archive’s digital collections in another country. We are building the Internet Archive of Canada," adding that they need donations because such an endavour will cost "millions."
Even if the data currently in America isn’t destroyed or manipulated, government officials could simply remove all the online links to certain databases or sets of climate data. In order to prevent this, researchers have set up a Google spreadsheet containing links to plenty of databases that anyone can look at. Investors and database experts are all lending a hand without asking for anything in return.
Lawyers are also holding consultations at the American Geophysical Union annual gathering in San Francisco with researchers who feel like their career or work might be threatened. The fact that a playbook entitled Handling Political Harassment and Legal Intimidation: A Pocket Guide for Scientists is being handed around is a frightening symbol of what could be around the corner for academics.
[H/T: Washington Post]