Later today, three scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency were due to speak at a conference on climate change in Rhode Island.
That was until the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, under the direction of their boss, renowned climate sceptic, Scott Pruitt, cancelled their appearance, although the scientists are still allowed to attend.
Ironically, the program hosting the conference, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program in New England, is even funded by the EPA’s National Estuary Program, but this has not stopped the Agency from barring its own scientists from speaking.
Rhode Island’s entire Congressional delegation, who are Democrats, will be there. One of those scheduled to speak Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a statement “Narragansett Bay is one of Rhode Island’s most important economic assets and the EPA won’t let its scientists talk with local leaders to plan for its future. Whatever you think about climate change, this kind of collaboration should be a no-brainer. Muzzling our leading scientists benefits no one.
According to the New York Times, which broke the story yesterday, “The scientists who have been barred from speaking contributed substantial material to a 400-page report to be issued on Monday, which concludes that “climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea level and fish in and around the estuary.”
The Times notes: “The move highlights widespread concern that the E.P.A. will silence government scientists from speaking publicly or conducting work on climate change”.
John King, a Professor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who chairs the science advisory committee of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, told the paper. “It’s definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at EPA. They don’t believe in climate change, so I think what they’re trying to do is stifle discussions of the impacts of climate change.”
Others were outraged too: Robinson Fulweiler, a Boston University ecosystems ecologist who has studied the effects of climate change on marine life, told the Washington Post it was an “abuse of power” by the Trump administration, adding: “The silencing of government scientists is a scary step toward silencing anyone who disagrees.”
But the Agency is not only silencing its own scientists, it is systematically scrubbing its website of mentions of climate change, including benign resources to help local governments from tackling the issue.
We know the EPA began deleting mentions of climate change back in April, including removing subdomains, like “epa.gov/climatechange” and “epa.gov/climate-impacts”. These now redirect to a notice page, which states that the EPA website is being updated “to reflect EPA’s priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.”
According to a new analysis of The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), a watchdog which monitors federal web pages found one EPA website, “a new website providing content about energy policy for state, local and tribal governments has replaced a previous website, which hosted both climate and energy resources.”
Unlike the previous website, for example, the new website’s main page does not link to the “State Climate Action Framework”, “Local Climate Action Framework”, “Climate Showcase Communities”, and “Tribes & Climate Change Action” pages, which no longer have live counterparts on the new website.
The EDGI says: “The new website launch was done without an accompanying news release and the decision not to include particular climate resources was not explained.”
The explanation is simple: This is climate denial in action, which the Trump Administration hopes will lead to climate silence.