Guest essay by Eric Worrall
An Australian climate scientist is concerned that President Trump might shut down US government servers which hold climate data being used to prepare the next IPCC assessment, which might prevent the next IPCC assessment from proceeding.
‘Everyone is vulnerable’: Trump presidency a risk to Australia’s climate science
A Trump presidency in the US could have serious impacts on Australia’s climate science and other research, with fears the cuts could be “CSIRO times 50”.
Donald Trump’s pledge to end US participation in the Paris climate agreement and expectations he will appoint climate change denier Myron Ebell to a key environment role has scientists bracing for fallout.
Australia’s climate research relies on many US programs, some of which have been targeted by the Republican-controlled Congress. President Barack Obama resisted cuts to agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but he will leave office on January 20.
At the extreme end, a Trump administration could jeopardise global climate research efforts by withholding access to observational data that underpins climate models, with the output used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said David Karoly, an atmospheric scientist at Melbourne University.
“All the [Coupled Model Intercomparison Project] data is stored on US data servers,” Professor Karoly said, adding the US is the only place storing all that information.
Any interruption could mean the next IPCC assessment potentially doesn’t proceed, which “would be an enormous setback for climate science”, he said.
Others, though, noted that while earlier model data were singularly housed on servers belonging to the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the international Earth System Grid Federation now shares the load. The network is led by the US but has nodes elsewhere, including in Australia.
While I applaud US efforts to help David Karoly find his climate data, suggestions that a cut in funding would make access to data impossible seem a bit overblown.
We live in an age where data storage is cheap. For example, Amazon charges $0.02 / Gb / month for data storage, or $20,000 per petabyte per month (assuming no further bulk discounts are available) – more than enough hard disk for even the most bloated climate dataset.
If all the 20,000 climate participants in Marrakesh chip in a dollar each every month, climate data storage and access will not be an issue, regardless of US funding cuts.