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A Donald Trump rally in coal country

"This is terrifying for science, research, education, and the future of our planet," one scientist tweeted after the results came in. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Does President-Elect Trump Spell Doom for the Planet?

Climate change denier promises to bring in new era for coal, pull U.S. out of international climate commitments

Nika Knight Beauchamp

Hours after the stunning U.S. presidential election returns showed an avowed climate change denier chosen for the nation's highest office, environmentalists around the world grappled with what a Donald Trump presidency will mean for the planet.

Trump has vowed to renege on the Paris climate pact, reinvest in fossil fuel infrastructure, and to bring in a new era for the coal industry, not to mention repeatedly denying the reality of climate change.

"The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us."
—Becky Chung, SustainUS

"Africa is already burning. The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new President's rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change," said Geoffrey Kamese of Friends of the Earth Africa.

"[S]adly, while Trump campaigned as a political outsider, his transition team is filled with corporate lobbyists," observed Food & Water Watch director Wenonah Hauter. "His agriculture advisors are agribusiness insiders. He has called climate change a hoax, and his energy advisor is a lobbyist for the Koch Brothers. His reported top pick for energy secretary is Harold Hamm, a modern-day oil tycoon."

And as Grist pointed out, "Most of President Obama's efforts on the clean energy front were made using his executive powers—powers that will now allow Trump to fulfill many of his promises to completely defund climate action and gut environmental protection."

The environmental outlet added:

He's pledged to pull the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He's vowed to cut all federal climate spending. He is going to appoint a known climate denier, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, to head the Environmental Protection Agency's transition team.

Under Trump's appointees, the EPA's powers will be rolled back, with weaker enforcement of regulations mandated by the Clean Air Act and upheld by the Supreme Court. Of course, Trump will have his pick on the Supreme Court, too—which could soon decide the fate of Obama's central climate accomplishment, the Clean Power Plan.

Scientists, too, fear the coming Trump presidency.

"This is terrifying for science, research, education, and the future of our planet."
—María Escudero Escribano,
Stanford University
"Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had," Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington DC, told Nature. "The consequences are going to be very, very severe."

"This is terrifying for science, research, education, and the future of our planet," tweeted María Escudero Escribano, who is "a postdoc studying electrochemistry and sustainable energy conversion at Stanford University in California," according to Nature.

"You're talking about an individual who is not informed by data, whether it's from climate change or anything else, and is poorly read," Evan Snyder, a stem cell biologist in California, told BuzzFeed. "So clearly science is not a priority for him."

"Donald Trump is a climate menace, no doubt about it. He wants to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, stop funding clean energy research and drill for extreme oil. But together we are more powerful than he is," said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, to the Guardian.

"Fear may have won this election, but bravery, hope and perseverance will overcome."
—Annie Leonard,
Greenpeace USA
Indeed, many environmentalists are vowing to stay the course, unify, and assert new pressure on the incoming Trump administration as well as the international community in an effort to avert complete climate chaos.

"Our hearts go out today to the millions of people who voted against bigotry and hate and now have to accept the fact that the man who ridiculed and threatened them for months is the President-elect of the United States," Greenpeace USA executive director Annie Leonard said. "Fear may have won this election, but bravery, hope, and perseverance will overcome."

"As a young woman and first-time voter I will not tolerate Trump's denialism of the action needed for climate justice. Our country must undergo a systemic change and just transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy within my lifetime," said Becky Chung from the youth network SustainUS. "The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us. As young people and as climate justice movements we will be demanding real action on climate for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world and for all future generations."

"Now is the time to take a deep breath and fight like never before."
—May Boeve, 350 Action
"Greenpeace and millions of people around the world have all the power we need to combat climate change and create a just world for everyone," Leonard added. "Let's use this moment to reenergize the fight for the climate and the fight for human rights around the world."

And 350 Action executive director May Boeve told supporters Wednesday: "Our work becomes much harder now, but it's not impossible, and we refuse to give up. The hateful rhetoric promoted by Trump’s party will only strengthen the ties between progressive groups and make our movement stronger. Together, we will put everything on the line to protect the progress we've made and continue to push for bold action. We refuse to leave the future of our climate in Trump's hands. Now is the time to take a deep breath and fight like never before."

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