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article imageCanadians join in to save climate data before Trump takes power

By Karen Graham     Dec 18, 2016 in Technology
Some people may look at archiving all the federal government's data on climate science as nothing more than paranoia, but when the incoming administration has made no secret it is hostile to climate change science, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Environmentalists, climate scientists, academics and everyday citizen-scientists are collaborating in a massive effort to preserve all the fragile digital federal records and research on climate science before climate-denier Donald Trump takes office as President of the United States in January, reports the BBC.
NPR.Org reports the movement took hold after Slate meteorologist Eric Holthaus went on social media and posed the question: "Scientists: Do you have a climate database that you don't want to see disappear? Add it here," he wrote. "Please share."
Picture of a red tide
Picture of a red tide
The response was overwhelming Holthaus said, according to Common Dreams. Offers of pro-bono legal help, help in funding efforts to copy and safeguard the data and offers to help organize the mountains of data and to house it with free server space have been pouring in, according to the Washington Post.
A few days ago, it was announced that the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) was going to be leading the project under its Climate #DataRefuge website. "While the situation in the U.S. is uncertain, common sense dictates 'better safe than sorry,'" wrote the academic collective.
Lake Hume at 4 percent capacity. Picture taken from Victoria side of the lake. Australia
Lake Hume at 4 percent capacity. Picture taken from Victoria side of the lake. Australia
Tim J. Keegan
"That is, our Canadian collaborators at the University of Toronto witnessed first-hand how having a climate denier in office impacted accessibility to climate and environmental data," PPHE pointed out, referencing former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's censorship of federal scientists.
"Guerrilla archiving event"
Our Canadian neighbors have jumped on the bandwagon. Professors and volunteer citizen-scientists from the University of Toronto have organized something they are calling a “guerrilla archiving event." Using only laptops, reports CTV News, they are going through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, URL by URL, copying data and storing it on independent servers.
The EPA gets a massive amount of data, from satellites, and collaborative research groups on both sides of our border, to data on small projects and studies. Faculty of information professor Patrick Keilty said all this information is valuable and needs to be preserved so it can be used to form evidenced-based climate policies in the future.
Halley VI research station will be relocating to a safer site on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. ...
Halley VI research station will be relocating to a safer site on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Image from 2016.
British Antarctic Survey
“There are a massive number of documents. Today we only did a very small number,” he told CTV News. “Today we fed 3,142 URLs into the Internet Archive web crawler, and we identified 192 more programs we would like to tackle for future archiving.”
The Internet doesn t die. It all ends up here.
The Internet doesn't die. It all ends up here.
Arnold Gatilao, Oakland, Calif. (CC BY 2.0)
The Internet Archive is like a gigantic library, except it is all digital. It preserves billions of web pages for their historical record. It was created by a San Francisco non-profit founded in 1996 and is working to "prevent the Internet — a new medium with major historical significance — and other "born-digital" materials from disappearing into the past."
The Internet Archive is now building a backup archive in Canada after Trump's winning the U.S. presidential election. “It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible,” wrote founder Brewster Kahle in a post-election statement. “It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions.”
Professor Kielty isn't so sure that Trump will start with mothballing a number of federal agencies, like the EPA and Energy Department. Keilty thinks it is more likely Trump will start by defunding initiatives that don't agree with his stance on climate change.
A picture of the Sand Fire taken before sunrise at Griffith Park in Los Angeles in 2016.
A picture of the Sand Fire taken before sunrise at Griffith Park in Los Angeles in 2016.
Twitter @Sand Fire
“Defunding those programs will mean losing a lot of data because it requires a lot of resources to maintain and curate the data to make it publically accessible,” he said.
There is now a number of archiving group tackling the massive amount of data stored on government websites that pertain to climate science. Groups have also formed in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. “There has been a flood of interest from groups in many other American cities,” Keilty said. “Every day there’s more groups coming in to say ‘What can we do to help.’”
How many federal agencies have data related to climate science and global warming? Here's a short list:
The EPA, NOAA, NASA, U.S. Geological Survey, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Weather Service and there are plenty more, including the Energy Department and the Department of the Interior as a whole, because I'm sure I have left out a number of agencies.
More about Climate data, Internet Archive, denierinchief, citizen scientists, defunding of programs
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