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Protection of Climate Change Data

By Peter Clarke, JD on January 31, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

The vast majority of scientists who have studied the issue have concluded that global warming is happening and that such warming has been caused to a large extent by humans. For that reason, not long ago, many countries signed onto the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in an effort to deal with this threat to life on the planet.

However, there is concern that plans to deal with global warming may be halted. Why? Because it appears that President Trump is bringing into US government people who reportedly have expressed doubt about climate change, or at least who have been in favor of less environmental regulations for businesses. Indeed, according to a recent report by Public Radio International, a Trump transition team member has said that new studies and data by EPA scientists will be put on hold.

In this context, some people are worried that environmental data and documents from the EPA and other government agencies may become no longer be available to the public. The Public Radio International report refers to Michelle Murphy, a Professor at the University of Toronto, as saying "we're worried that the incoming administration is going remove data sets that are available now and make the inaccessible offline." And, "once they're offline, we don't know what's going to happen to them."

The Public Radio International report states that data sets have not yet been removed from government web sites, but that the word "climate change" has been removed from the White Houses official web site.

Based on the worry that important environmental information may become unavailable from the US government, Murphy and other academics in Canada and the US have begun attempts to back up data and documents from the EPA, as well as information from additional government agencies that address environmental and climate issues.

Murphy also has contributed in founding the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative that last month hosted a data archiving event at the University of Toronto. This reportedly is just one of other data archiving efforts, including such efforts in Philadelphia, PA and Ann Arbor, MI, that have sprung up in the wake of the Trump presidency.

Murphy has stated that she is concerned about a "war on science."

Stay tuned to learn whether her concern is well-founded and whether data preservation efforts were worth it to help protect the planet.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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