What Prompted this Climate Change Hotline?

December 20, 2016 09:32 AM

The leading U.S. weather agency finds itself in the eye of a storm: climate change in the age of Trump.

With global-warming deniers in Washington, outside scientists are setting up an anonymous hotline for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s employees to report political meddling. Fearing deletion, academic researchers are backing up U.S. data. Insiders are considering jobs outside government.

“I am hearing a lot of worry,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which established the hotline. “The worry is that they will be putting another ideologue in place.”

The President-elect himself called climate change a hoax and is backed by a Republican-controlled Congress that has also denied the science. Trump picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Department of Energy. Perry has denied climate change; Pruitt has said the science isn’t settled.

Last week, a member of the Trump transition team sent a 74-item questionnaire arrived at the Energy Department demanding to know which employees or contractors worked on climate change projects. A Trump transition official has said the employee hadn’t authorized the survey, and the person who sent it “has been properly counseled.”

“We can’t speculate on any policy changes an incoming Trump Administration might make,” weather agency spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said to all requests about potential changes. A Trump spokesman declined to comment.

Industry Lifeblood

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plays a key role in gathering and maintaining climate data. Through the National Weather Service, it also supplies the lifeblood of the $5 billion-a-year commercial forecasting industry, essential to morning commuters, farmers and commodity traders.

Read More: Climate Change Pact Now Faces Trump: QuickTake

“The U.S. has the most robust weather industry of any country in the world and to keep that continuing and to keep it growing, it is critical that the core functions of the National Weather Service be maintained,” said Barry Lee Myers,chief executive officer for AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

A concerted effort to back-up government data followed a tweet by Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and contributor to the Washington Post, Slate and the New Yorker. He asked: “Scientists: Do you have a U.S. .gov climate database you don’t want to see disappear?”

At the University of Toronto and the University of Pennsylvania, scientists also set up a “Guerrilla Archiving team” and a Facebook page, according to school spokeswoman Kathleen O’Brien.

Budget Ax?

The speculation on Twitter likened the potential loss to the Roman sacking of the Library of Alexandria. The fear spurred on an effort to save it before inauguration day, when the climate agency’s current administrator Kathryn Sullivan, a former astronaut, has to offer to resign.

It isn’t just the loss of past data that worries scientists. The service maintains ships, planes and satellites that collect weather, oceanic and solar data used to protect the world’s energy and communication grids.

Part of the Commerce Department, the oceanic administration includes the National Hurricane Center. To lead the Commerce Department, Trump has nominated Wilbur Ross, a billionaire who has acquired and restructured troubled companies.

Scientists fear that climate science could fall prey to budget cuts, as well as politics.

“The observations and their processing are irreplaceable. It would be a crime to cut those,” said Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “An observation not made is lost forever.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lynn Doan at ldoan6@bloomberg.net, David Papadopoulos at papadopoulos@bloomberg.net, John Hechinger

©2016 Bloomberg L.P.

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Spell Check

Hamilton, IL
12/24/2016 10:07 PM

  When I was in college we learned that the greatest producer of C02 was the rotting of vegetation in the Amazon forest. I don't think the modern computer models take into account that rain and storms cleanse the atmosphere producing acid rain. Also, it is good to remember that 3/4 of the earths' surface is water. Not much pollution out there. Then add the deserts and mountain ranges where few if any humans exist and you soon realize that man's influence is very limited. Nobody likes big smokestacks belching black and toxic fumes into the atmosphere, but that is a local problem that can be corrected. Every global warming proponent needs to drive across the Great Plains off the interstate highway and see how barren it is in large areas of the U.S. Look at the temperature record highs of 1934 and you will see how hot it got back then. Almost the whole month of June set record highs then. I rest my case.

Kankakee, IL
12/27/2016 09:31 AM

  Denying science does not change the facts. Climate change is happening and humans are causing it. One can not release the carbon deposits from millions of years into the atmosphere without devastating results. I am simply confounded at the number of farmers, a profession that stands to have their means of earning a living horribly altered, who seem unable or unwilling to understand the causes and effects of global warming. George W's administration covered up (with-holding satellite data and the like) evidence for climate change. The fears that an administration run for the monetary gains of the oil industry would do the same is overwhelming. This is the tobacco industry's denial of cigarette smoke causing health problems all over again. Farmers need to come to reality and demand reductions in the petroleum based energy products. Living in east central Illinois, I do not want a future east Texas climate for my children to try to earn a living farming.

Jonesboro, AR
12/20/2016 10:07 AM

  This man made global warming crap is one of the main reasons I voted for Trump. I have farmed for 35 years and I can't tell its any warmer now than the early 80's which were hot. But even if it is warming a little, I have see no concrete evidence man is causing it. No need to crush our economy with regulations and added taxes over something that is a political agenda.


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