Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump's Termites in Action

Victoria Hermann spotted the signs in January. The managing director of America's Arctic Institute watched as data was wiped out by Team Trump.

At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.

Since January, the surge has transformed into a slow, incessant march of deleting datasets, webpages and policies about the Arctic. I now come to expect a weekly email request to replace invalid citations, hoping that someone had the foresight to download statistics about Arctic permafrost thaw or renewable energy in advance of the purge.

In the waning days of 2016 we were warned: save the data. Back up the climate measurements. Archive the maps of America’s worst polluters. Document the education portals that teach students about backyard ecosystems.

Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.

We’ve seen this type of data strangling before.

Just three years ago, Arctic researchers witnessed another world leader remove thousands of scientific documents from the public domain. In 2014, then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper closed 11 department of fisheries and oceans regional libraries, including the only Arctic center. Hundreds of reports and studies containing well over a century of research were destroyed in that process – a historic loss from which we still have not recovered.

These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic’s winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs.


Toby said...

Is Steven Harper advising the Trump team?

The Mound of Sound said...

Not that I've heard of but I wouldn't put it past him.

Anonymous said...

So in 2014, Harper closed 11 DFO regional libraries. One year later, Harper was gone. What I want to know is whether Trudeau reopened the libraries. A quick Google turns up no stories on DFO libraries after 2015. That doesn’t sound good, but it would be in keeping with my sense of Trudeau's environmental record.


UU4077 said...

Trudeau's environmental record has been disappointing. However, there is not much reason to reopen the closed libraries as all the "books" were "burned".

The Mound of Sound said...

Cap, I believe UU4077 is right. The information, a lot of which was not digital, was destroyed. An act of ideological vandalism, the wanton destruction of invaluable public property representing years of research and analysis paid for out of the public purse. At least America's scientific community was able to mobilize and copy some, perhaps most, of the data Trump has sought to obliterate.

e.a.f. said...

corporations don't like facts which interfere with their ability to make money. politicians who rely on those corporations for funding, comply with the wishes of those corporations.

the people running those corporations think they can avoid the storms which are causing so much misery. Unfortunately even their gated communities will one day be impacted.

The Mound of Sound said...

e.a.f. - it took a while but conversations and exchanges I've had with the corporate types always came back to some version of this - "not just yet."

Few of them are blind to reality. Leaked documents proved that Big Oil has been aware of the reality, nature and pace of global warming for more than 20 years. They know at some point that means the carbon bubble will be popped - just not yet. They think they can continue for a while, years certainly, perhaps decades before governments have to act and shut them down. Invariably they're unwilling to consider that their rearguard efforts mean we'll be overtaken by events. I've heard experienced, accomplished, educated people who fall back on coping devices such as "they'll figure out something." This belief in some inevitable salvation probably played a major role in every past civilization that collapsed.