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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What’s next? An end to federal funding for Rhode Island climate science?

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

Activists denounced the move by holding a protest outside Save The Bay center, 100 Save The Bay Drive in Providence. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
Photo by Tim Faulkner (ecoRI News). Read Tim's coverage of the
aftermath of this event by CLICKING HERE

The authors and supporters of a new report called The State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed hoped the new report would help call attention to the dire effects of climate change on coastal Rhode Island. Instead, the report is calling attention to the dire effects of the Trump Administration on science and speech.

“I expected to be telling a relatively simple story this morning but it turned into something else,” said University of Rhode Island oceanography professor John King, who contributed to the report.

He expected to present the report with three federal Environmental Protection Agency employees who helped him write it. The Trump Administration had different plans. 

According to the New York Times, “The Environmental Protection Agency has canceled the speaking appearance of three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference on Monday in Rhode Island, according to the agency and several people involved.”

Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation, already scheduled to appear at the event, were not pleased.

“This event was supposed to focus on this collaborative comprehensive report and a remarkable achievement in cleaning up Narragansett Bay,” said Senator Jack Reed, at the event. 

“We should be here applauding progress. However, I am disheartened and disappointed that the Trump Administration is preventing several EPA scientists, whose work is supported by taxpayer dollars, from publicly presenting their research and finding today. 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.”

Reed added, “I hope the Trump Administration will look at the facts and read this report and reconsider it’s stance on trying to muzzle scientists who don’t present evidence that doesn’t conform to their political agenda. Great democracies encourage the open exchange of free information.”

Congressman David Cicilline offered even harsher words than Reed.

“It’s almost impossible to image this sequence of events,” he said. “Scientists who are involved in this work, deeply respected, have been prevented from presenting their findings at this press conference at the direction of this administration.”

Calling the decision “dangerous,” Cicilline added, “This is something which we cannot just let pass by. This is extraordinary. The idea that we would deny the American people information – good, reliable facts and evidence – to develop public policy is not only disappointing it’s dangerous. it ultimately will endanger the lives of the American people when scientists are prevented from sharing their findings because some in the admin want to continue this claim that climate change is not real. this is a great danger to our democracy.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Jack Reed also denounced the Trump Administration decision to prevent the EPA scientists from speaking.

“The fact that we can’t have  conversation about this with the relevant federal officials is sad,” Whitehouse said.

“We have got to get beyond this point of stifling good science,” said Langevin. “This shouldn’t be about a Republican or Democratic issue, this is about protecting our planet. We’re not going to turn around the current trend without having an understanding of the fact. I hope the Trump Administration gets that message loud and clear.”

The report was created by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, which protects and oversees coastal and aquatic features in Rhode Island.

Save The Bay, which hosted the event, called the Trump Administration’s decision “travesty.”

Said spokeswoman Cindy Sabato, “The cleanup of the Narragansett Bay estuary is a national success story, one that would never have happened without decades of sound scientific research and knowledge – not to mention tremendous, long-term commitment and investment by voters, policy-makers, elected officials, government agencies, environmental organizations and the citizenry of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

"The scientific facts will not change by silencing our nation’s scientists; rather, our federal government could reverse decades of progress and put our coastal communities at grave risk by pretending the science of climate changes doesn’t exist. Now more than ever before, our local communities must stand up and speak out for our natural resources, even as our federal government retreats further and further from environmental progress.”

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.