President Donald Trump’s energy and environmental policies threaten to undo progress made over the past decade toward slowing climate change and improving the Earth's overall health.
It’s a headstrong and myopic approach to serving business interests at the cost of environmental concerns, jeopardizing the future of the planet and short- and long-range human interests in exchange for short-term economic gains.
National Geographic published a running list early this month of the Trump administration's actions affecting the environment. While he made two relatively minor moves — donating a quarter of his presidential salary to the national parks and allowing an Obama-era action to provide endangered species protections to the rusty patched bumblebee — President Trump's executive orders, his cabinet appointments and other actions by the president and his appointees could lead to disastrous environmental consequences.
Here is a partial list of those actions:
• President Trump appointed, essentially, a pair of foxes to guard the hen house when it comes to the environment, tapping Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA and Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general, led a 27-state lawsuit against former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan and often sided with big-oil interests. Tillerson has inextricable ties to the fossil fuel industry and, like Pruitt, disputes climate-change science.
• Ignoring the advice of experts at the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt rejected a complete ban of the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, which had already been outlawed for household use. But it's still allowed in farm applications and has been linked to brain damage.
• Under Trump's watch, oil is now surging through the Dakota Access Pipeline below a North Dakota Lake and a permit has been granted for the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil fields in Alberta to Texas refineries.
• Pruitt's sham EPA will rethink tough pollution emission standards adopted during the Obama years for light-duty vehicles. The standards would require fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon beginning in the year 2025.
• The federal budget proposed by the White House would slash funding for the EPA and other science and environmental agencies to help compensate for a $54 billion increase in defense spending.
• In February, President Trump inked a congressional resolution to revoke the "Stream Protection Rule," through which the U.S. Department of the Interior had placed tougher restrictions on the dumping of mining waste into waterways.
• President Trump in late March signed an executive decree to gut Obama's climate change orders, beginning the process to rescind the Clean Power Plan. Trump's order underestimates the long-term costs of carbon emissions and would allow the leasing of federal land for coal mining.
While all of these actions have serious implications for the health of the environment, the order to rescind the Clean Power Plan is potentially the most disastrous. It would mean, basically, that the U.S. is backing out of its commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement, a multi-national pact in which the United States vowed to reduce, by 2025, its carbon emissions by 26 percent from the level in 2005.
As the world's biggest polluter, the United States' commitment to stopping global warming was key to the Paris Agreement. If the United States backs out, China and others could follow suit. China could also get a leg up on the United States in the development of alternate energy industries.
Scientific inquiry, other than that motivated by politics, has consistently shown that drastic climate change is happening and that carbon emissions are driving it. Unless global warming is stopped, we'll face increased flooding, droughts and food shortages, as well as rising seas.
Thankfully, environmental interests and the states of California and New York have already vowed to fight President Trump's executive order in court. Enlightened members of Congress will fight it, as well. Perhaps the damage threatened by the Trump administration's backward views of science and environment can be stymied until Americans have a chance to elect another president.