ISTOCK, JKBOWERSProtests have erupted in Rhode Island following the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep three of its scientists from speaking at an event about the future of a local estuary in response to climate change.
The 30 or so protesters gathered angrily in Providence with signs including “Un-gag the EPA” and “Science not Silence,” according to the Associated Press. The decision was condemned by researchers as well as Democratic members of Congress. Rhode Island’s senior senator, Jack Reed, told the Washington Post on Monday: “This type of political interference, or scientific censorship—whatever you want to call it—is ill-advised and does a real disservice to the American public and public health.”
No clear explanation was given why the EPA scientists had been barred from speaking, according to The New York Times. They had been scheduled to discuss a scientific report, which EPA researchers helped write, on the ecological state of the Narragansett Bay and its estuary. The report comes to the conclusion that data on sea level projections and temperature do not bode well for the bay’s seagrass habitat, salt marshes, and fish populations. The event was hosted by EPA-funded Narragansett Bay Estuary Program.
The agency’s decision to bar scientists from speaking is seen as the latest in a slew of prohibitive actions to silence a discussion around climate change, and is in line with what many see as increasing scientific censorship across various federal departments.
Earlier this year, the EPA removed some of its data on the human influence on the climate as well as most mentions of the term “climate change” from its website. In August, employees within the Department of Agriculture were instructed not to mention “climate change” or “global warming.” More recently, individual scientists were asked not to mention those terms in descriptions of their research when applying for grants funded by the Department of Energy.
“Can we censor science and get away with it? I would say I hope not,” John King, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and chair of the science advisory committee of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, tells the Associated Press. “Our job is to inform policy. Hopefully it becomes good policy. Let us do our job, without fear of losing our jobs.”