Portending doom for U.S. involvement in critical international climate programs, President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is reportedly probing how much the U.S. State Department spends on efforts to fight global warming.
According to the Washington Post, which cited "multiple people familiar with the matter," the inquiry was included in a list of questions posed last week to the department's Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs—which itself is targeted for complete elimination in the House Freedom Caucus's "First 100 Days" wish list, delivered to Trump last week.
"This probe seems like a prescient prelude for the anti-environment, anti-humanitarian State Department we can expect to see under a President Trump and a Secretary of State Tillerson."
—Karen Orenstein, Friends of the Earth U.S.
The Trump team reportedly asked: "How much does the Department of State contribute annually to international environmental organizations in which the department participates?"
This could refer to U.S. commitments to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which calls on rich nations to provide money and technology to help poorer countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, and is a key component of the Paris Agreement. It could also point to funding given to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The New York Times noted just this week: "Because climate change has become a common flash point in all international negotiations, the State Department is on the front lines of global efforts to fight rising temperatures."
Trump's own "100-day plan to Make America Great Again" called for canceling "billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs," which he later clarified to mean "all wasteful climate change spending."
And the transition team's inquiry, to which the State Department has not yet responded, is especially "ominous" in light of Trump's recent selection of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to head the department as well as his transition team's recent attempt (later disavowed) to identify Energy Department employees who worked on environmental policies under President Barack Obama.
"This probe seems like a prescient prelude for the anti-environment, anti-humanitarian State Department we can expect to see under a President Trump and a Secretary of State Tillerson," Karen Orenstein, deputy director of economic policy at Friends of the Earth U.S., told Common Dreams. "Don't expect the people of this country, or other countries for that matter, to simply acquiesce to their anti-science, anti-justice, pro-corporate approach. We won't.”
Indeed, the environmental movement is ready to fight against any push to weaken U.S. commitments.
"International support for efforts to address climate change are critical not only as a moral obligation from a country like the United States that has the means to do so, but also as a matter of national security," Oil Change International campaigns director David Turnbull told Common Dreams in an email.
"The impacts of climate change are bringing greater hardships and conflict around the world, and as countless military leaders have suggested, such conflicts will only increase if climate change is left unchecked," he said. "Any action by the incoming Trump administration to eliminate international support for climate action will serve to undermine the United States' standing in the world, in addition imperiling our planet with the prospect of more climate disasters."
In an effort to minimize the impacts of Trump's potential climate cuts, a coalition of human right and environmental organization is this week calling on Obama to "fulfill the U.S.' commitment to the Green Climate Fund before Donald Trump and his Big Oil cabinet take over," as Tamar Lawrence-Samuel of Corporate Accountability International put it.
In 2014 the U.S. committed $3 billion to the GCF—but to date has only transferred $500 million.
"The debt for the damage inflicted on the global climate by American carbon will never be fully repaid—and the Trump administration can be counted on to do nothing for the most vulnerable people on the planet," said author and 350.org founder Bill McKibben. "So this call makes both practical and moral sense," he said—perhaps even more so in the light of Trump's questioning of the State Department.