Columbia University and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund today launched an online tracker of the Trump administration's crackdown on climate science.
The project, called the Silencing Science Tracker, has so far assembled 96 entries of federal restrictions or prohibitions on climate science since November 2016. The database is built from media reports, and it's searchable by agency, date and type of action.
More than half the entries are listed as censorship, either from government restriction or researchers who are self-censoring. Other instances include targeted personnel changes, budget cuts and other federal actions aimed at minimizing or hindering climate research. The project also links to resources for whistleblowers and legal help.
Plans are underway to expand the project to states.
"The Trump administration has sort of studied the playbook of some states," said Romany Webb, a fellow at Columbia's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. She pointed to Florida and Texas as examples.
The Silencing Science Tracker joins similar efforts by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which also monitors other fields like health science, and the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, which has closely tracked changes to government websites.
"An administration like this requires multiple points of oversight," said Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Part of the challenge is that there are so many avenues by which to attack science, with a new attempt coming more than once a week on average, he said. That's an unprecedented pace, even under a Republican president.
"Under [the George W. Bush administration] it was more likely that inconvenient science would be suppressed, but this administration is disrupting the scientific process itself," Halpern said.
The silver lining, he added, is that the scientific community is getting better at building the infrastructure necessary to make research resilient against political interference.
The trackers are a prime example of that. Another is legislation sponsored by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) to strengthen protections for government data.
"It took years under Bush to identify the threat and muster a sustained response," Halpern said. "I don't think those doors are going to close again."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.