Cli­mate change re­ports are sud­denly hot

Traf­fic to fed­eral web­sites soars un­der new ad­min­is­tra­tion

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY SARAH KA­PLAN sarah.ka­plan@wash­post.com

The events of the past week were wor­ry­ing to ad­vo­cates of govern­ment ac­tion on cli­mate change, with the re­moval of cli­mate pri­or­i­ties from the White House web­site and the order to freeze all En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency con­tracts fol­low­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion of a pres­i­dent who has said he is “not a big be­liever” in the fact that hu­mans have played a role in chang­ing Earth’s cli­mate.

But these events have also been very good for web­site traf­fic.

Ac­cord­ing to data from an­a­lyt­ics.usa.gov, which tracks Web traf­fic on all dot-gov web­sites, sev­eral pages re­lated to cli­mate change have been ex­tremely pop­u­lar in the week since Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion.

On Fri­day, a Na­tional Park Ser­vice re­port about the agency’s “Cul­tural Re­sources Cli­mate Change Strat­egy” was the most down­loaded doc­u­ment from a govern­ment web­site. Thou­sands more peo­ple wanted to down­load that doc­u­ment than those who down­loaded the form to ap­ply for pass­port re­newal or any of the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice doc­u­ments re­quired to file tax re­turns.

In the spring, Jonathan Jarvis, who was then the Park Ser­vice’s di­rec­tor, spoke with The Wash­ing­ton Post about the cli­mate change threat to parks. “A lot of our big, na­tional parks are in ex­treme en­vi­ron­ments — high el­e­va­tion, desert, Alaska, coast­line,” he said. “These are the places that we’re al­ready see­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change, and they’re go­ing to be ac­cel­er­ated in these en­vi­ron­ments, with sea level rise, storm surge, thermokarst­ing” — when per­mafrost thaws — “in the Arc­tic, fires in the Sierra, drought all over. It’s go­ing to up­set the par­a­digm upon which we’ve been man­ag­ing for 100 years. That’s go­ing to be a big chal­lenge, and, frankly, we haven’t fig­ured it out.”

The cli­mate change strat­egy re­port out­lines how the Park Ser­vice aims to ad­dress the ef­fects of chang­ing con­di­tions on ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, historic build­ings, mu­seum col­lec­tions, sa­cred land­scapes and other cul­tural re­sources. It was down­loaded 29,583 times Thurs­day.

Over at EPA.gov, nine of the top-10 down­loads were re­lated to cli­mate change. On Thurs­day alone, 3,036 peo­ple down­loaded the agency’s 2016 re­port on cli­mate change in­di­ca­tors, which lists ev­i­dence for global warm­ing and pro­vides ways to track its ef­fects on the planet.

An EPA con­trac­tor, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the worker was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter, said the page EPA.gov/cli­mat­e­change had a 2,700 per­cent in­crease in vis­i­tors in the first five days af­ter the in­au­gu­ra­tion, as com­pared with the five days be­fore. The agency’s cli­mate change re­search page had a 500 per­cent in­crease in vis­i­tors.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had planned to scrub these cli­mate change pages from the EPA’s web­site, an EPA em­ployee told The Post. But ca­reer staffers pushed back against the plan, and the po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees over­see­ing the agency backed away from it.

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