BY CHEYENNE ELLIS ’21
Early last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to pull two scientists and an agency consultant out of a Oct. 23 conference in Rhode Island. The conference was set to highlight the impact of climate change on the Narragansett Bay, according to USA Today. All three were expected to present reports on their studies detailing noticeable climate change impacts in the area. The data collected ranged from air and water temperature reports, sea level indications and the impact analysis on the local fish.
According to the Narragansett Bay Commission, Narragansett Bay is the largest estuary in New England, providing seafood for a large portion of the eastern costal area and serving as a local anchor for both tourism and the fishing industry. The threats facing the area could have widespread effects on the seafood industry. Based on the Watershed Counts 2017 report, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program predicts that warming waters will lead to fewer phytoplankton, which in turn leaves less food for shellfish and other invertebrates. This will impact the oyster aquaculture industry that exports the shellfish locally and nationally.
This decision to remove the scientists was confirmed on Monday by EPA spokesman John Konkus, who provided no explanation as to why the presentations had been cut. Tom Borden, program director of the Narrangansett Bay Estuary program said to the New York Times, “I was not really provided with a clear explanation. He [John Konkus] advised me that it was the decision of the EPA Office of Public Affairs.”
Many view this decision as a threat, as agency administrator Scott Pruitt has stated his denial that human-caused greenhouse gases are the culprit behind the increasing global temperatures, according to the New York Times. “It’s definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at EPA,” said John King, an oceanography professor at the University of Rhode Island in an interview with The Guardian. King is also in charge of the scientific advisory committee of the Narrangansett Bay Estuary Program. “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.”
Students at Mount Holyoke are also concerned by the EPA’s latest decision. “It just doesn’t make sense,” said Kiely Quinn ’21, when asked about her opinion of the decision. “Scientists shouldn’t be banned from presenting their findings.”
Jackie Rich ’21, who is planning to major in environmental studies also expressed uneasiness. “I’ve been concerned for many months as information has been removed before our eyes from the EPA’s website,” she said. “It is terrifying to see the government hide information that should be available to all. I will do everything I can as a citizen, specifically to educate myself and vote for politicians who support the efforts of independent scientists and the EPA.”