Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scientists Fear Climate Data Blackout Under Trump

A famous tweet by Donald Trump shows
 his "knowledge" of climate science. 
Climate science, despite the hysterical objections of climate denialists. is based on data.

The more data we get, the more we understand how climate change will affect us,  how bad it will get, what we need to do to mitigate it, and how we go about trying to erase the worst effects of it.  

Just in the past week, we've gotten big dumps on informatio from the Arctic, and how it's had a rough climate year, and what that means for us.

For instance, the data shows, according to an "Arctic Report Card" from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the following, as reported by The Verge:

"The so-called Arctic Report Card showed a few new records this year: the minimum extent of Arctic sea ice from mid-October to late November was the lowest since satellite observations began in 1979.

In the North American Arctic, spring snow cover in May fell to the lowest levels since satellite observations begin in 1967. And the average air temperature over land this year was also the highest on record, representing a 6.3 degree Fahrenheit increase since 1900."

Then there's Greenland. We learned this week that two new studies published in Nature indicate the Greenland ice sheet is less stable than may scientists thought. Everybody knew there was a melting trend in Greenland, contributing to global sea level rise, but the new studies said what was thought to be a fairly stable ice sheet could melt down almost completely, at least eventually.

That would create a lot more sea level rise than many scientist originally thought.

All this is to say we need a lot more data and a lot more science to fully understand the complexity and implications of climate change.

But we're entering a period under the Trump administration that is hostile to climate science.

Trump has been notoriously dismissive and ignorant about climate change. As an example, a couple of winters ago, he tweeted that since there was a nasty January cold wave going on in New York City, that must mean climate change is a hoax.

He's stocking his cabinet and staff with climate change deniers and people from the oil industry, who have a vested interested in denying climate change.

Worse, Trump is not officially in office and he appears to be already on a witch hunt to scrub the federal government of climate scientists.

The Trump transition team had asked for a list of people in the Department of Energy who are working on climate science.

The Energy Department declined to give those names, and the Trump transition team is disavowing the request for the list as a mistake by a Trump employee who was not authorized to make that request.

Still, you can understand why people are nervous.  
Advocates say climate scientists should get more
ito the forefront of climate activism and social media.

That's why there's a big social media push to collect data pertaining to climate change and storing it on the cloud or scattering it across the world to make it harder for someone who might want to maliciously destroy the data, to keep it from seeing the light of day.

A lack of data, the logic goes, would stymie the work of climate scientists and activists in the age of Trump.

Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist, journalist and climate activist is a ringleader in this effort.

Holthaus told NPR:

"There are ways of keeping this data open and publicly available and uninterrupted during any sort of era of our government that might be hostile to climate science. 

And it definitely feels like we are entering a time when climate scientists feel the need to sort of hunker down and preserve wat they've done so far. This project is helping them to continue their work uninterrupted

And again, the goal in this project is not out of some paranoia of a conspiracy to erase knowledge from humanity. It's to make sure that we are advocating for climate science in the sense that these scientists ave devoted their lives, and they are now going to be operating under a government that is hostile to climate science."

Holthaus went on with NPR:

 "I wouldn't expect the Trump team to come and say, you know, by the way, we're going to just delete all the work that you guys have done for the last decades. I think the most likely scenario is that there will be across-the-board budget cuts in the realm of climate science across multiple parts of the government."

Collecting science data is all wonderful if you have scientific data with you or your scientific organization has collected it. But is there anything we can do to help?  I reached out to Holthaus and others via Twitter. His and other suggestions are to donate to university science departments and other scientists and become a citizen scientist yourself. 

To be a citizen scientist, you don't have to learn how to take ice cores on an Arctic glacier, then live there on a pile of ice for a year.

There are programs to hook up with in which you can observe changes in your local environment. These small scale projects are a great ingredient, believe it or not, to understand climate change.

Meanwhile, there is a movement to convince climate scientists to do more outreach, more activism to get the word out and combat anything Trump might do.

Some scientists already do this, perhaps most notably Michael Mann, the Penn State Atmospheric Science professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State who has actually gotten death threats because of his science and was sued by climate denialists who questioned the integrity of his work. (Several independent reviews concluded Mann's science was sound.)

The lawsuit experience has turned him into an activist, and he's all over social media and the media in general to spread his science, and yes, his opinions.

Other climate scientists should follow suit, at least to an extent, says people like current Obama administration U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell reently told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union that to fight Trump's Tweets, scientists have to counter-Tweet, and more.

According to The Verge:

"She name checked Snapchat and Twitter, and pointed out that one of the most popular tweets from the U.S. Geological Survey reached a lot of people because Leonardo DiCaprio retweeted. it. DiCaprio hs re than 16 million followers. 'You guys are all rock stars to me,' Jewell told the crowd. 'But I don't think any of you have 16 million followers."

There might even be an assist or two from politicians.

According to the Sacramento Bee, at the same American Geophysical Union meeting where Jewell spoke, California Gov. Jerry Brown said if Trump turns off climate monitoring satellites, "California will launch its own damn satellite....Were going to collect that data." 

"We've got the scientists, we've got the lawyers and we're readh to fight. We're read to defend," Brown said.

It will be an interesting, rough four to eight years in the climate science wars. The good news is forces are mobilizing to attempt to keep the Trumpsters in check.

The bad news is I doubt we can totally keep scientific integrity going in the next few years.

Meanwhile, I'm sure the climate-related disaster and humanitarian crises will keep piling up.

It's a wonderful world.
 

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