Apparently defying the Trump administration’s new social media policy, the Badlands National Park went rogue for a few hours on Tuesday and tweeted several scientific facts related to climate change — but the tweets were deleted as the White House apparently reeled in the wayward park.
The tweets, from the South Dakota park’s official account, came on the same day Mr. Trump signed executive orders reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, signaling he’ll put a priority on developing energy sources over concerns about climate change.
“The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm,” read one tweet on the park’s Twitter feed. “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate. Flipside of the atmosphere; ocean acidity has increased 30% since the Industrial Revolution. “Ocean Acidification.” #climate #carboncycle.”
After its initial tweets around 3 p.m. Tuesday, the barrage continued later in the afternoon. Just before 5 p.m., the Badlands account tweeted more climate change information.
“Burning one gallon of gasoline puts nearly 20lbs of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. #climate,” the follow-up tweet reads.
The posts were deleted around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, but not before generating a slew of online stories about who and what was behind the tweets. The tweets on the surface may appear innocuous, but they come at the very instant the new Trump administration has moved to scrub all mentions of climate change from federal websites. The official White House page, for example, no longer mentions global warming, as was the case under President Obama, and instead only discusses Mr. Trump’s energy policy.
In addition, the Trump White House also reportedly has instituted a policy banning some agencies at least temporarily from tweeting and communicating with the media. The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that the Environmental Protection Agency had been instructed not to communicate with reporters.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday said he was looking into reports the EPA had been told not to communicate with reporters, but said such guidance wouldn’t be out of the ordinary during the first days of a new administration.
“We’re looking into it. I don’t think it’s any surprise that when there’s an administration turnover, that we’re going to review the policies,” he told reporters.
But Democrats seized on the incident to attack the Trump administration’s climate policy and its attitude toward dissent in the ranks. Name-checking the authoritarian Russian president, Democratic National Committee national press secretary Adrienne Watson said in a statement, “Vladimir Putin would be proud.”
The National Park Service, a division of the Interior Department that oversees all parks, has been at the center of the social media storm, making Tuesday’s tweets all the more noteworthy.
The NPS had its Twitter account temporarily taken off-line over the weekend after tweeting photos showing what appeared to be the disparity in crowd size between Mr. Trump’s inauguration last week and that of former President Obama in 2009. The tweets were quickly deleted.
Democrats have blasted the administration’s social media moves and said they expect the Badlands tweets to be removed in short order.
“The administration’s disturbing suppression of taxpayer-funded federal agencies’ communication with the public and Congress undermines basic democratic norms. We cannot treat such borderline authoritarian actions as business as usual,” said Adrienne Watson, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. “How long will it take for the Twitter account of Badlands National Park Service to be suspended for its defiance?”
As of 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, the tweets were still posted.
The Interior Department currently is without a secretary. Rep. Ryan K. Zinke, Montana Republican and Mr. Trump’s pick to head the department, awaits Senate confirmation. He’s expected to be approved, though it’s unclear when a vote will take place.