“This is the way the world ends…”
Get set for a rough ride on climate change policies and inactions under Trump. Actually it will be a full-on climate disaster, with all of the progress of the past eight years—which wasn’t all that great in any case, but at least were crucial steps in the right direction—almost certainly reversed, undone, scrapped.
This is what is likely to happen, post-Jan. 20, based on reporting by various news outlets including Newsweek, the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the statements from DJT:
During the campaign, DJT vowed to withdraw from the Paris treaty on climate change negotiated last year. He said he would remove regulations that curb carbon emissions and permit oil drilling and mining on federal lands in the seas. He would approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and weaken—a better word is eviscerate—the Environmental Protection Agency.
During the transition DJT has surrounded himself with fossil fuel advocates and lobbyists. The influence of the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil is widely apparent. Myron Ebell, head of DJT’s EPA transition team, “is a notorious denier of global warming whose biography unashamedly notes that he’s considered a ‘climate criminal‘ by activists and ‘a superstar of the denialosphere’ by The Climate War author Eric Pooley. But he’s also director of environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which touts ‘the life-enhancing value of chemicals’—chemicals like arsenic, DDT and PCBs,” according to EcoWatch. Ebell may well be named to head the EPA; he has no scientific experience and says global warming is a myth. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has taken over $2 million from ExxonMobil and millions more from other fossil fuel companies to attack environmental regulations. He wants to destroy the Clean Power Plan and gut the EPA.
Here are some more details regarding the likely near-term moves on climate change (from Newsweek on 13 November):
Scrapping the Clean Power Plan
“Trump has promised to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would curtail carbon dioxide emissions from power plants—the single biggest domestic accomplishment of the Obama administration on climate. Bureaucratically, reversing the regulations isn’t as easy as promised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who thinks “day one would be a good idea”), but Trump’s EPA could choose not to enforce the rule by giving states waivers. The Supreme Court has ruled that EPA has the legal obligation to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, so environmental organizations and liberal states can sue the Trump administration to try to force it to regulate once again. But a court system stacked with Trump appointees would be far less friendly to those kinds of lawsuits. The Clean Power Plan already appears headed for the Supreme Court—which would soon include a Trump appointee in addition to four judges consistently hostile to environmental regs.”
Rolling Back Smog and Mercury Standards and Coal Ash Regulations
“Trump promised to repeal every new rule imposed by the Obama administration that harms coal. All three of these fit the bill. Smog, mercury, and coal ash are conventional air or water pollutants that can sicken people who live near coal-burning or processing facilities. Under Obama, the EPA updated and strengthened these rules (though not always to the satisfaction of environmental advocates).
“Based on the latest science, the agency lowered the allowable levels of mercury and smog and regulated the disposal of coal ash. The coal ash rules were weak, and the smog rules were both weak and long-overdue. But it was still bad news for the coal industry. The good news for environmentalists is that, while the executive branch can reverse these rules on its own, it will require a new rulemaking process. That takes time, requiring a public comment period, and it’s also—like any rulemaking—subject to legal challenge. Green groups will likely go after all these moves, arguing that they violate laws like the Clean Air Act that charge the EPA with protecting public health.”
Bringing Back the Coal Industry
“Trump pledged on the campaign trail to essentially wish the coal industry back into existence on day one. Unless he’s got a genie in a bottle (maybe that explains Tuesday’s results?), this is a complete fantasy. Coal employment is plummeting for a few reasons: Strip mining and mechanization have reduced the number of miners needed, Appalachian mines have essentially been tapped out, and it’s more expensive to unearth the remaining coal than to burn natural gas or convert to wind and solar. It’s a myth that the Obama administration regulated coal out of existence; that was happening anyway. Reversing Obama’s rules would have a very marginal impact on coal employment and would only temporarily boost coal use, since economic factors are against it.”
Filling the White House with Fossil Fuel Execs
In addition to Ebell, “Trump’s favorite for leading the Department of Energy is oil and gas executive Harold Hamm. His other energy advisers include coal magnate Robert Murray, and pro-fossil fuel Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. The specter has been raised of Sarah Palin as Secretary of the Interior (which manages much of the federal government’s public land). Although Democrats can filibuster cabinet appointments, there’s a good chance that most Trump nominees will get confirmed.”
Approving Pipelines and More Drilling Permits
“The Keystone XL pipeline is back from the grave. With Trump’s election, TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline that would bring Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf, is ready to finally get the greenlight after the Obama administration’s refusal. The Dakota Access pipeline is also a sure bet, says Trump’s energy adviser Cramer. The president-elect has promised that “private sector energy infrastructure projects”—namely, pipelines and coal export terminals—will get a rubber stamp. Trump has also promised to open more of the oceans and federal lands to mining and drilling. The president has wide latitude to fulfill those promises, with only public opinion standing in the way.”
Gutting the EPA, Rather Than Abolishing it
“Right-wing Republican candidates always propose eliminating disfavored cabinet departments. But creating and abolishing federal agencies is actually the prerogative of Congress. And although there might be enough votes in the extremely anti-government, anti-environment House GOP caucus to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, it would be unlikely to pass the closely divided Senate. Dirty air and dirty water poll terribly, after all. Instead, the death by a thousand cuts imposed on the agency since Republicans took control of Congress in 2011 will likely continue. Republicans will reduce the EPA’s budget and pass laws restricting its powers—like the ones the House Republicans have passed repeatedly for the last six years. Whether the Senate will still have enough votes to reject them remains to be seen.”
Proctor writes: “The bad news, of course, is that the world’s wealthiest nation, home to many of the scholars scrambling to reverse global warming, has elected a new president with little or no interest in the topic. Or an active disinterest. Donald J. Trump is surrounding himself with advisers who are likely to do little to challenge his notion of climate change as a Chinese hoax. People like to think of us as living in an age of information, but a better descriptor might be “the age of ignorance.”
“How did we get into this predicament? Why are we about to inaugurate the most anti-science administration in American history?” His answer makes for alarming reading.
We are dealing with a dangerous cabal of Hollow Men—this is the way they want the world to end, quietly and “not with a bang, but a whimper.”
Images: Climate Change by Jan; Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey via Flickr CC