The Badlands National Park Twitter account rose from obscurity Tuesday with a quartet of tweets about global climate change that defied the Trump administration's stance on the issue -- at least until they were removed after a few hours.
The tweets from the South Dakota park described basic aspects of climate change science -- how burning gasoline creates carbon dioxide, how carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased and how the oceans are becoming more acidic. Even after the tweets were removed, supporters posted screenshots in response to a benign "caption this" tweet that remained.
The tweets were "posted by a former employee who was not currently authorized to use the park's account," a Park Service representative said. "The park was not told to remove the tweets but chose to do so when they realized that their account had been compromised."
The flurry of activity shows how the same internet service that helped fuel Donald Trump's rise to power also can be used against him by government employees -- at least until prohibited from doing so.
The National Park Service was banned from tweeting, the Washington Post reported Friday, after retweets about the size of Trump's inauguration crowd and the administration's removal of Obama administration web pages about civil rights, global warming and health care. A Golden Gate National Park tweet from Monday about 2016 being the hottest year on record remains online, though.
The Trump administration has also ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to get rid of its own climate change page, Reuters reported Wednesday. That comes on top of a media blackout and ban on new grant awards at the EPA, according to the Associated Press. However, the US Department of Agriculture rejected a gag order that would have prevented its Agricultural Research Service from sharing any information publicly. ARS researchers have studied climate change among other subjects.
The Park Service now is encouraging Twitter activity about public safety and park information, but not "content related to national policy issues," the representative said. The White House and Badlands National Park didn't respond to requests for comment.
Hundreds of scientists in the field conclude that human activity is releasing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that are warming the planet, a finding that agrees with the stance of top scientific organizations and several studies of climate scientists.
President Trump and his administration see climate science and global warming in a very different light, though.
In 2012, Donald Trump declared, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." The Trump administration has proposed an "America-first energy plan" centered on fossil fuels that generate carbon dioxide when burned.
"We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own," the White House's plan says. "The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America's coal industry, which has been hurting for too long."
The Badlands National Park Twitter account offered another perspective, at least for a few hours. Here are the tweets and some links to authoritative backing of their details:
- "The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm." 280ppm: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); 404.93ppm: NASA.
- "Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate" 650,000 years: the journal Nature.
- "Flipside of the atmosphere; ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution. 'Ocean Acidification' #climate #carboncycle" 30 percent: NASA.
- "Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. #climate" 20 pounds: Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.
First published Jan. 24 at 6:20 p.m. PT.
Update Jan. 25 at 7:49 a.m. PT: Added information about the EPA's climate change page and the effort to bar USDA researchers from publishing information.
Update Jan. 25 at 10:06 a.m. PT: Added National Park Service comment that the tweets came from a former employee.
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