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EPA Website Restores Climate Change Data

FILE - In this July 22, 2017, photo, a polar bear stands on the ice in the Franklin Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.
FILE - In this July 22, 2017, photo, a polar bear stands on the ice in the Franklin Strait in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Data missing from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website is back and updated after a four-year absence under the Trump administration.

The EPA's new Climate Change Indicators website shows that the last decade was the hottest on record; heat waves have increased in frequency from two per year in the 1960s to six per year in the 2010s; and sea levels rose as much as 8 inches in coastal areas.

"With this long overdue update, we now have additional data and a new set of indicators that show climate change has become even more evident, stronger, and extreme — as has the imperative that we take meaningful action," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

The site pulls together data from 13 federal agencies, plus academics and other organizations, on everything from greenhouse gas emissions to winter ranges of birds.

The usual metrics are here, including rising temperatures and sea levels and shrinking glaciers.

The updated version adds a dozen new indicators including the frequency and duration of heat waves, melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, and summer energy use for air conditioning.

The website shows "the public and planners the many costs that climate change has on their daily lives, public health and ecosystems that many livelihoods depend upon," said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The move to update the data is part of the Biden administration's efforts to undo his predecessor's sidelining of science and scientists.

Former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly called climate change a "hoax," had disbanded panels of scientists advising the EPA on regulations. He also limited the types of data that the agency could consider when writing rules.

Trump dismissed the scientific consensus that human emissions of greenhouse gases are warming the planet. His administration sought to weaken regulations aimed at reducing them. The Trump EPA left the climate indicators website stuck in 2016 with outdated data.

But agencies across the federal government continued to record how the climate was changing and the effects those changes were having on the environment and human society.

"The science kept going," Ekwurzel said. "The indicators and the data are always being collected. They were just harder to get to."