Since the inauguration one year ago, this administration has been a whirlwind of environmental threats, so let’s take a moment to reflect on what has actually happened. Here are 10 ways Donald Trump and his administration are pushing the world further towards catastrophic climate change.
1. Fast-tracking and Green-lighting Pipelines
Trump launched his presidency with a crusade to “unleash” fossil fuels and dismantle the environmental legacy of his predecessor. One of his first executive orders was green-lighting the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline — which President Obama had halted. And last March, Trump revived the Keystone XL pipeline — possibly the most publicly opposed fossil fuel megaproject of our time.
2. Giving Big Oil the Biggest Voice: Secretary of State
One of Donald Trump’s first cabinet appointments was choosing then-Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of State to direct U.S. foreign policy. Exxon not only belongs to an industry partly responsible for causing climate change, but, an InsideClimate News investigation revealed, Exxon spread misinformation on fossil fuels and global warming. The company knew about the threat of climate change for decades, stretching back at least to the 1970s. Since then, the oil giant has contributed millions of dollars to think tanks and politicians skeptical of climate change.
As Union of Concerned Scientists president Ken Kimmell has said:
“You wouldn’t hire the CEO of a tobacco company to serve as surgeon general. So why would you pick the leader of an oil and gas corporation to spearhead a position tasked with national security and global climate action?”
3. Pulling the U.S. Out of the Paris Climate Agreement
Did you know that 2015, 2016 and 2017 were the planet’s hottest three years on record? In spite of this fact — and in spite of overwhelming evidence that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the planet — Trump decided to withdraw the United States from the world’s landmark commitment to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, arguing the decision was made for the sake of the U.S. economy.
4. Opening Arctic Refuge to Drilling
Instead of pushing for clean energy and an end to our oil addiction, Trump signed legislation that opens up one of the world’s most pristine and precious ecosystems in the world to oil drilling. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the homeland of the Gwich'in Athabascan people of interior Alaska and the Inupiat people of the north coast, who argue that protecting the refuge is a matter of human rights.
5. Shrinking National Monuments
In the largest reversal of national monument protections in U.S. history, Trump announced proclamations to shrink the size of Bears Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 46 percent. The extreme shrinking of these national monuments in Utah makes way for extracting gas, oil, coal, and uranium.
“Once again the Trump administration has shown its affinity for pandering to fossil fuel interests and that it cares very little for the protection of our environment or for Indigenous Peoples,” wrote the Indigenous Environmental Network in a statement.
6. Gutting the EPA from the Inside
Trump appointed avowed EPA nemesis Scott Pruitt — who had sued the EPA 14 times as the Oklahoma attorney general — as the agency’s head with an obvious mission: to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency from within. The agency, since its 1970 launch, is tasked with keeping people safe from toxic pollutants, protecting the environment and addressing climate change.
Pruitt has already decided to eliminate more than 30 environmental protection rules, has reduced enforcement of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, postponed a rule requiring fossil fuel companies to collect and report more emissions data, and he has overruled EPA scientists and refused to ban a pesticide that has alleged links with brain and nervous system damage in young children. And that is only a partial list.
7. Dropping Climate Change from List of National Security Threats
In December, Trump took yet another measure to de-prioritize climate change by dropping it from the country’s list of national security threats. Trump, who once famously called climate change a “Chinese hoax”, made this decision despite 2017’s hurricanes devastating Puerto Rico and Houston, and wildfires raging out of control in California. Puerto Rico is still devastated in the aftermath of the horrific climate-change-fueled Hurricane Irma.
8. Censoring Climate Change
Within one year, the term “climate change” vanished from a staggering number of federal agency website pages. The scrubbing of climate change information from government website is a deeply disturbing act of apparent state censorship.
According to an investigation by The Environmental Data & Governance Initiative:
“Links have been cut from pages or rendered useless, language has been changed to alter emphasis and drop mentions of climate-change-related topics, and entire climate websites have been removed and made significantly less accessible.”
9. Leasing Off Offshore Waters to Oil & Gas
Under the Trump administration, the Interior Department said it wants make 90 percent of the continental shelf, the submerged offshore area between state coastal waters and the deep ocean, open to drilling. The proposal will reverse the Obama administration’s protection of 94 percent of the outer continental shelf.
According to a statement issued by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke: “Providing the offshore industry access to the maximum amount of opportunities possible” is a “pillar of President Trump’s plan to make the United States energy dominant.”
10. Slashing Funds for Environmental Protection
Trump’s original budget proposal set out to slash $2.5 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency, which would have translated to 31 percent of its budget. Instead, Congress voted for a $528 million decrease. Though this cut is less severe, whole programs will be eliminated and the EPA's ability to enforce environmental standards will be constrained.