President Donald Trump on Tuesday set about aggressively dismantling Obama-era climate policies with an executive order decried as "sheer reckless folly," which will increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.
"Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump's effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions," said David J. Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen's Climate Program, in a statement.
"This day may be remembered as a low point in human history—a time when the world's preeminent power could have led the world to a better future but instead moved decisively toward catastrophe," Arkush added.
The order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would have limited the emissions of coal-powered power plants. It also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing, repeals limits on methane emissions from fracking, and directs the agency to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.
"The EPA's rollback of basic environmental rules demonstrates that when it comes to the health of our children, our communities, and our climate, this is an administration of lawlessness and disorder," said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the grassroots sustainability group UPROSE, in statement.
"Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused."
—Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network
"For frontline communities, those of us impacted first and worst by the extraction economy, this means an escalation of public health crises, from asthma to cancer. It means an utter disregard for those of us most vulnerable to climate disasters," Yeampierre added. "It means a world of volatility and exploitation for our children and grandchildren."
Environmentalists, local and state leaders, and advocacy groups are vowing to resist.
"The best way to fight against these executive orders is to take to the streets," as 350.org executive director May Boeve put it.
"President Donald Trump tearing apart the CPP is an act of aggression and violence against the sacredness of Mother Earth and Father Sky," said Tom BK Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement. "Our indigenous prophecies and teachings tell us that Life as we know it is in danger. The atmosphere and the environment cannot absorb anymore concentration of greenhouse gases. As Indigenous peoples, we still understand our responsibility as guardians and the need to take action as defenders of the Earth. Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused."
"As a member of the climate justice movement, we stand defiant in the face of these orders and are prepared to hold the line," Yeampierre said. "We will meet these violent policies with a deeper commitment to a Just Transition away from fossil fuels, toward renewable energy, local resiliency, and a regenerative economy worthy of leaving our children."
The climate movement has numbers on its side, groups observe. "Millions of Americans have called for strong climate action, submitting more than 8 million comments asking the EPA to take action to cut carbon pollution from power plants," noted Environment America. Recent polling confirms that a vast majority of Americans support climate action.
Moreover, despite the Trump administration's dubious claims of job creation, the Department of Energy showed that renewable energy jobs have already overtaken fossil fuel industry jobs, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.
As the federal government gives up its role in the climate fight, many now see local and state leaders taking up the charge.
"The West Coast will be allied with the rest of the world that understands science."
—Washington Gov. Jay Inslee"[A]s our most successful climate programs face attack on the federal level, it is incumbent on states to double down on their climate commitments," Environment America wrote. "We are calling on our governors to keep leading the charge and push the progress we need to tackle the climate crisis and get 100 percent renewable energy."
West Coast politicians are already uniting under the umbrella of the Pacific Coast Collaborative to battle the federal government's rightward turn on climate.
"As the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California and the mayors of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, we speak today in support of the Clean Power Plan," the Pacific Coast Collaborative wrote in advance of the executive order. "We speak in unified opposition to the idea of any decision by the President to limit our region's economic opportunities or our commitment to doing what's right to make our cities and states cleaner and healthier for future generations."
"The West Coast is going to move forward to beat climate change," said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, according to Northwest Public Radio. "The West Coast going to move forward to build clean energy jobs. The West Coast will be allied with the rest of the world that understands science."
"It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House."
—David J. Arkush, Public Citizen
"Many states and cities in the West will continue to lead on clean energy because it makes economic sense, and those states that tie their fate to Scott Pruitt’s doomed strategy of delay and deny face an increasingly risky future," said Bill Corcoran, Western campaign director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
And despite the frightening actions of the Trump administration, states and cities are already taking strong action to fight climate change. California last week passed the nation's strictest methane regulations, and on Monday the Maryland state senate passed a statewide fracking ban. Maryland's Republican governor has already signaled his support for the ban.
People nationwide are also ready to rise up and march for climate justice.
"Even as Trump dismantles environmental protections to shore up the fossil fuel industry, support for action to stop global warming is at an all-time high," said 350.org's Boeve. "Now it's up to communities to bring our vision of a healthy climate and a just transition to renewable energy to life."
Those who support climate action and oppose Trump's fossil fuel-friendly administration will gather for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29, as well as the March for Science in D.C. and elsewhere on April 22.
"From the upcoming congressional recess through the Peoples Climate March and beyond, we'll be putting pressure on lawmakers to defend the climate and building power to stop the fossil fuel industry for good," Boeve said.
"Now is the time to come together and build an economy where investments are made to benefit workers, communities of color, women, and low-income folks, not the fossil fuel industry," said Rae Breaux, lead climate justice organizer for the People's Action Institute, in a statement.
Public Citizen's Arkush added: "It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House."