As It Happens

Canadians help U.S. scientists protect climate change data

Save the data. The U.S. President-elect doesn't believe in climate change -- so some scientists believe the best way to protect their research is by archiving it where the new administration can't get at it.
President-elect Donald Trump / Guerilla Archive Logo (Getty Images / University of Toronto)

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There are thousands of scientific studies that prove climate change is real.

But U.S. scientists are worried about what might happen to the mountains of environmental data when U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has very publicly denied climate change, takes office.

One solution is to ask Canadian scientists to help them archive data from U.S. government servers. And now in Toronto, researchers will begin making backup copies of the data.

Michelle Murphy, Director of the Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto, tells As It Happens host Carol Off that this effort is badly needed.

I think there's overwhelming evidence right now that we should be concerned.- Michelle Murphy, Director, University of Toronto's Technoscience Research Unit

MICHELLE MURPHY: We see that there's an explicit mandate that they are putting forward of diminishing the potential of environmental and climate agencies and getting rid of difficult research and regulations that affect the key industries they are interested in.

CAROL OFF: What's going on in Toronto this weekend in collaboration with your American colleagues?

MM: We're hosting something called the Guerilla Archiving event. We are working with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania library and at the Internet Archive, which is a non-profit that archives all of the Internet that has a project to archive government websites before the transition to the Trump presidency. And we are going to be feeding the web crawler of the Internet Archive to make sure that we are prioritizing websites and materials that are likely to be changed rapidly when the Trump presidency starts. We're also looking at data sets that might be vulnerable to becoming less publicly accessible and we'll be nominating those to be put into the Penn [University of Pennsylvania] repository.

Michelle Murphy, director of the Technoscience Research Unit at the University of Toronto (University of Toronto)

CO: Can you give us some examples of things that might need to be saved, things that are vulnerable?

MM: Some of the things that we've seen identified as programs to be cut are, for example, programs around particulate air pollution, programs around clean water, programs around greenhouse gases, the environmental justice program at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. These are some of the things that have been called out by EPA transition team members.

CO: We interviewed one of the science advisors on the Trump transition team. He's the one who said NASA should no longer be in the business of climate research. When we referenced documents from the EPA, he said: 'they're all activists and they should be discounted.' So how vulnerable is the Environmental Protection Agency? 

MM: I personally think it's very vulnerable. The first day after Trump won the the election he appointed Myron Ebelle to lead the transition. He's one of the most well-known climate deniers and what we call a 'merchant of doubt' when it comes to environmental science. Scott Pruitt who has been designated by Trump to administer the EPA, he's known for doing court cases that seek to refuse EPA regulations. So I think there's overwhelming evidence right now that we should be concerned.

Myron Ebelle, President-elect Donald Trump's adviser on the EPA (Getty Images)

CO: You are joining forces with your American colleagues but you are Canadian, so what echoes are you hearing from the time of the Harper government in Canada?

MM: I work on the Great Lakes, and questions of toxicity and chemical exposure on the Great Lakes. So that's something that connects Canada and the United States. Here in Canada, myself and many social scientists were part of organizations that were concerned with things like not allowing government scientists to speak to other researchers, to go to conferences, to share data with journalists. What we saw was a huge backup of access to information requests and their redaction. And when we would get them, what we saw was the closing of Fishery [department] libraries and the destruction of material. I could go on and on...and so I think all of that is good evidence for some of the things that we're going to be seeing down in the United States.


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