The events of the past week have been worrying to advocates of government action on climate change, with the removal of climate priorities from the White House website, the order to freeze all Environmental Protection Agency contracts and the inauguration of a president who 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 .gov websites, several pages related to climate change have been extremely popular in the week since President Trump's inauguration.
As of Friday morning, 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.
Last spring, the Park Service's then-Director Jonathan Jarvis 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. 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 climate change on archaeological sites, historic buildings, museum collections, sacred landscapes and other cultural resources. It was downloaded 29,583 times Thursday. (The site does not have historic data on what forms are usually the most-downloaded.)
Over at EPA.gov, nine of the top-10 downloads are 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 has had a 2,700 percent increase in visitors in the five days since the inauguration, as compared with the five days before. Similarly, the agency's climate change research page has had a 500 percent increase in visitors.
“It seems like the game they play now is metrics, and those are our metrics,” the contractor said.
The Trump administration had planned to scrub these climate change pages from the EPA's website, an EPA employee told The Washington Post. But career staffers pushed back against the plan, and the political appointees overseeing the agency have now backed away from it.