Within moments of the inauguration of President Trump, the official White House website on Friday deleted nearly all mentions of climate change. The one exception: Mr. Trump’s vow to eliminate the Obama administration’s climate change policies, which previously had a prominent and detailed web page on whitehouse.gov.
The purge was not unexpected. It came as part of the full digital turnover of whitehouse.gov, including taking down and archiving all the Obama administration’s personal and policy pages. That also included a page devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. At the same time, the official White House Twitter handles also changed over, allowing Mr. Trump to now post on Twitter as @POTUS.
But the digital change, which flashed into place at noon on Friday, immediately placed into sharp relief some of the starkest differences between the old president and the new. And for advocates of climate change policy, it presented the first concrete sign that Mr. Trump remains, as he was on the campaign trail, skeptical and dismissive of the established science of human-caused climate change, and committed to blocking policies to curb it.
Scientists fear the online deletions will extend far beyond changes to introductory websites and into the realm of government data. Climate change data gathered and stored by the United States government is considered among the most authoritative in the world. But scientists worry the data will be deleted during the Trump administration.
Since Mr. Trump’s election, about 50 scientists at universities around the country have volunteered their time — and computer servers — to save and store government data stored on the websites of the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, NOAA, and the United States Geological Services. Those websites keep records of key climate data such as atmospheric temperature trends, greenhouse gas emissions levels, and sea level rise.
The scientist gatherings have been organized by 314 Action — a nonprofit group named for the first three numbers of the mathematical concept Pi — which aims to make science more accessible to the public.
“The government has done a great job of collecting and maintaining climate change data on these websites located all across the federal government,” said Shaughnessy Naughton, the founder of 314 Action. “The concern is that the data may no longer be publicly available, and then that they may no longer gather the data. It’s a lot easier to deny climate change when you don’t have data.”
As of Friday afternoon, no major changes could be found on other major government websites associated with climate change. But allies of the Trump administration said they were not surprised to see the change to the website, and expect to see more.
“What do you expect? A new administration is coming in with a very different view of the world,” said Chris Warren, a spokesman for the Institute for Energy Research. Mr. Trump has relied on that think tank for energy policy advice. The group’s president, Thomas Pyle, has advised Mr. Trump’s transition team.
“Each president has different priorities,” Mr. Warren said. “We saw the priorities of President Obama reflected in the previous website. The new administration has a very different way of looking at the world. He wants to increase oil and gas and increase wages, and you can tell from the changes to the website that it looks like what he talked about on the campaign trail.”
The New York Times
20 January 2017