This Earth Day, we face a climate threat greater than ever before. And he lives in the White House.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump consistently mocked climate science and promised to gut policies protecting our communities, natural resources and the environment. He called climate change “a hoax” invented by the Chinese government.
In and out of office, Trump has been consistently at odds with scientific evidence and consensus on climate change. He is also at odds with public opinion, which increasingly acknowledges and understands the threat of global climate crisis.
Despite its failures to advance a legislative agenda, the Trump Administration has successfully used executive orders, rule changes in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies, and the use of the Congressional Review Act to undo crucial protections of air, water and the environment. Trump’s greatest achievement thus far may very well be turning back the clock on government protections to the planet.
As his first 100 days comes to a close, Trump already has a long list of climate crimes. He has:
- Revived the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines;
- Appointed ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State;
- Appointed climate denier and oil industry apologist Scott Pruitt to head the EPA;
- Revoked the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Stream Protection Rule,” which restricted dumping mining waste into surrounding waterways;
- Ordered the EPA to review the “Waters of the United States” rule, effectively rolling back federal protections to some wetlands and isolated lakes;
- Rescinded a prohibition of lead ammunition on federal lands and waters;
- Withdrew an Obama EPA request for more detailed information on oil and natural-gas facilities;
- Proposed a 31 percent budget cut to the EPA in the initial budget;
- Proposed one of the largest increases to the military budget in U.S. history, being one of the worst polluting sectors in our economy;
- Ordered the EPA to reconsider car emissions requirements;
- Signed an executive order dismantling a huge part of the Obama administration’s climate agenda. This order reduces tracking of climate data, rescinds a 2016 moratorium on coal leases on federal lands, and begins the process of rescinding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
Trump’s Backward Agenda
This backward agenda on climate couldn’t come at a worse time. The survival of our planet requires not only slowing global warming ,but reducing our current level of emissions to help cool the planet.
Influential climatologist Dr. James Hansen has noted,
If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from [current levels] to at most 350 ppm.
We are currently at about 400 pmm of CO2. And things get worse every day.
The need for massive, widespread conversion of the economy to renewable energy is essential in order to begin heading in a constructive direction. Every day we wait, the worse things get.
Denying the Facts
Facts, data and rationalism have been under attack in this country for years, but the assault has gained ground under the Trump Administration. Trump’s cabinet has moved to stop collecting essential scientific data in different departments, and his proposed budget plans to reduce spending on science departments based on the idea that if you don’t collect the data, then the problem doesn’t exist.
As the body of evidence grows, the only way to oppose the urgent and logical turn away from carbon emission and extraction is to simply deny the facts before us. We now know that Exxon and other giant oil companies had clear evidence of climate change for decades and systematically lied to the public and Congress about it. The industry has also dedicated itself to buying champions in Congress, climate deniers and corporate lobbyists to repeat their lies and debunked claims, and reject science as a matter of policy.
Despite the fog of misinformation promoted by the energy Industry and rightwing propagandists, about half the people in the U.S. believe the warming of the planet is primarily due to human activity. There is also increasing concern over global warming and a belief that government policy has solutions to climate change.
And of course world opinion has shifted as well. The Paris Climate Accord ratified by the U.S. in 2016 took a serious step towards the world’s government’s taking the global challenge of the climate seriously. While it didn’t go far enough, it sets an important precedent for international cooperation.
The Trump Administration is flirting with pulling out of the Paris agreements. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt called for the U.S. to withdraw from the agreement just last week. But the scheduled cabinet meeting this week to plot a direction for the administration was abruptly cancelled among reports that, ironically, U.S. coal companies are lobbying the White House to stay in the agreement.
What We Can Do Now
It is fitting that this Earth Day, a group of scientists and environmentalists are organizing a March for Science in Washington DC with sister marches around the country. This March is less about Trump or any legislative environmental agenda than making a show of public support for science and rationalism. March for Science organizers believe “science is a vital feature of a working democracy.”
One week after Earth Day, hundreds of thousands will gather for the People’s Climate March in Washington DC. Groups like 350.org, Green for All, Climate Justice Alliance, Native Organizers Alliance and People’s Action are organizing the march and over 500 other groups are supporting this initiative, with local marches around the country and the world.
Building on the historic People’s Climate March in 2014, this year’s march seeks to build an even bigger and broader base of support, to not just halt Trump’s regressive climate agenda, but to also lay the groundwork for the truly majoritarian movement needed to change our whole economy and culture around climate.
As the saying goes, to change everything, we need everyone.