Trump administration removes links to taxpayer-funded climate data on USGS website

You paid for U.S. Geological Survey climate data, but the White House is making it disappear.

The march for science April 22, 2017, in Denver.  CREDIT: AP/David Zalubowski
The march for science April 22, 2017, in Denver. CREDIT: AP/David Zalubowski

In its relatively short time in power, the Trump administration has made no attempt to hide its disdain for studying, communicating, and acting on the threat posed by climate change. Rather than simply ignore the scientific information and research accessible to the public, however, the administration instead has chosen to remove climate data and references to climate change from government websites.

In the process, they’ve gone to “shocking” and “distressing” levels to hide the truth from the American public — who, it must be remembered, funded all this research — as climate scientist Peter Gleick explained to ThinkProgress. (You can find numerous examples of “disappearing data” from the EPA to the Bureau of Land Management to the Energy Department here.)

Of course, this ongoing effort to make climate change disappear doesn’t alter the reality of human-caused climate change and the dire consequences of President Donald Trump’s effort to undermine domestic and global climate action. But that doesn’t stop Trump appointees from even the most pointless efforts to suppress the facts or make them harder for the public to find.

Consider the U.S. Geological Survey’s “Science Explorer” website, which the agency’s homepage explains is where the public can go to “learn more about our science through a guided topical exploration.” If you visit that site, and click on “climate change” here is what you see:

Screenshot of USGS "Science Explorers" website, September 18, 2017.
Screenshot of USGS "Science Explorers" website, September 18, 2017.

How inviting. One of the pictures is even of a young woman with notebook and pencil in hand, ready to “choose a topic below to start your exploration.”


Let’s start with the greenhouse effect, a crucial piece of science since without the heat-trapping effect of certain gases in our atmosphere, the average temperature of the planet would be 60°F cooler, and life as we know it today would not exist.

Here’s what you get if you click on “greenhouse effect.”

Screenshot of USGS website
Screenshot of USGS website

Whoops. Didn’t learn much from that exploration.

Note: If if you click on the “related topics” link to “greenhouse gases,” you’ll find exactly one link which will teach you exactly nothing about greenhouse gases.

If you go back to go back and try to learn about “sea-level change,” you’ll also find “no results.”

Climate scientist Peter Gleick first pointed out the full extent of the information purge in a series of tweets late Sunday.

Gleick noted that back in December 2016, “there were 5,932 climate science items linked” on the USGS site. Now there are only 416. Gleick made use of pages that had been previously archived by the Wayback Machine.


Even worse, all the links to climate data that were available on the site less than a year ago have vanished. The same is true of all the links to the “effects of climate change.” You can see the before and after screenshots from his tweet below.

Gleick, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and McArthur Foundation genius award winner, told ThinkProgress he couldn’t tell what’s been  permanently “disappeared” from the USGS site, “versus what has just been reorganized and put somewhere else.” But “the changes have made it far more difficult for the public to access critically important web resources and data sets related to climate science,” as can be seen from the screenshots above.

“This is shocking in the extent of the changes, and distressing in the sense that publicly funded data and science should be easily accessible, not hidden, and the changes move us in the wrong direction,” said Gleick. “Every federal agency website has undergone changes like this.”

The Trump administration’s efforts to erase climate science are legion. They started deleting and suppressing climate science from the White House website his first day in office and never stopped. In July, NOAA erased any reference to “human activity” or fossil fuels from a major news release on soaring greenhouse gases.


And the Interior Department, which oversees USGS, deleted a line explaining how climate change drives sea level rise from the news release accompanying a May study on coastal flooding.

Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, has repeatedly misrepresented or denied climate science and has indicated his interest in opening up public lands for producing more fossil fuels, another administration policy that will boost, rather than reduce, carbon pollution.

Thus, its no surprise that the agency’s external communications have sought to erase the reality of human-caused climate change. They wouldn’t even let Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meet a USGS climate scientist when he visited Glacier National Park earlier this year.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it,” as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has famously said. But that is also the bad thing, too. The Trump administration’s efforts to censor science not only fail to stop the climate from changing, they actually help accelerate the problem by downplaying and obfuscating the dangers posed by Trump’s pro-pollution policies.