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Science goes rogue: US government agencies tackle Trump on Twitter


Science goes rogue: US government agencies tackle Trump on Twitter

Government employees from more than a dozen federal agencies in the United States have opened rogue Twitter accounts, concerned by what they see as President Trump’s attempts to stifle government scientific research and scale back the country’s Obama-era commitments to combating climate change.

The network of alternative Twitter accounts includes those of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA and even the National Park Service.

It comes as several other federal government departments including the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, were issued directives this week from the Trump White House to curb their flow of information to the public on topics related to environmental issues.

On Wednesday the Trump administration demanded that EPA studies and data related to already-published climate change research showing evidence the Earth is warming and that human carbon emissions are to blame, be reviewed by political appointees.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Trump’s EPA transition team communications director, Doug Ericksen, said there was no mandate to subject scientific research to political review, but that the Trump administration is “taking a look at everything on a case-by-case basis, including the web page and whether climate stuff will be taken down.”

The uncertainty as to whether the Trump administration will force the EPA to remove its data prompted a flurry of ”guerrilla archiving” to ensure the agency’s records are safely preserved.

The directives have reinforced fears that President Trump, who once called climate change a Chinese-made hoax and who promises to unleash the United States’ vast oil and gas potential to spur economic growth, will move to deliberately cast aside and discredit scientific research while discouraging dissenting views.

Within hours of Trump taking his oath of office, an Obama-era White House presentation on climate change, was removed from the website. Former President Obama made combating climate change one of the key pillars of his administration. In September 2016, Obama signed, along with nearly 200 other heads of state and government, the Paris Agreement on climate which outlined global targets to reduce carbon gas emissions.

But Trump has promised to review and possibly pull out of the agreement despite how executives at ExxonMobil , the largest US oil and gas company, this week praised the climate deal as a “monumental” achievement.

Trump also this week signed executive orders reviving two highly controversial pipeline projects in South Dakota.

The rogue Twitter accounts are a nascent form of resistance against Trump’s budding policy ideals.

The movement gained traction when a former employee of a South Dakota national park Tweeted onto the Badlands National Park’s official account: “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate.”

The message was deleted but within hours, a dozen other rogue government accounts were created many using the emblems of their respective government departments or agencies.

Because the accounts are private, they are beyond the control of Washington.

The rogue Twitter accounts have collectively amassed hundreds of thousands of followers sometimes using the hashtag #resist or #resistance.

The alternative account for the US’ National Park Service had nearly 950,000 followers as of Thursday morning. The alternative accounts for NASA and for the US Department of Health and Human Services have just more than 40,000 and 25,000 followers respectively since they were created in January 2017.

But the movement doesn’t stop with Twitter protesting. Science advocates at @ScienceMarchDC are planning to hold a protest march in defence of science research in Washington.

On its website the march says the date of the planned event has yet to be determined.

“Although this will start with a march, we hope to use this as a starting point to take a stand for science in politics,” the organisers said . “Slashing funding and restricting scientists from communicating their findings (from tax-funded research!) with the public is absurd and cannot be allowed to stand as policy.”

On Wednesday Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner on a construction crane overlooking the White House with “Resist” emblazoned across its orange front.