What Trump’s presidency means for the climate
While the term “last chance” has been thrown around a lot in the past few years when it comes to climate change, it seems that this election cycle represented what really was the best window of a decent chance at fighting climate change. Climate scientists say if countries don’t reduce greenhouse gases immediately, the earth could face up to 11 degrees fahrenheit of warming by 2100 compared to preindustrial temperatures. This shift would be catastrophic, able to cause — or intensify — droughts, wildfires, rising seas, and agriculture crises, among other issues — and president-elect Donald Trump’s proposed policies seem to be headed in that direction.
Climate change did not receive much attention to begin with in the election process. Even while 2016 was on track to be the planet’s hottest year on record, according to NASA, the term “climate change” barely came up in debate, often only in regards to labor and jobs.
Trump once tweeted “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.” He will be only head of state who has rejected the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change.
The day after he was elected, stocks in bankrupt coal company Peabody Giant shot up almost 50 percent; oil shares rose, and solar stocks dropped.
In announcing his America First Energy Plan, Trump called for revitalizing coal industry jobs and boosting the shale oil and gas industries.
Trump has proposed dismantling Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which aimed to cut carbon emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change on a national and global scale, and Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants. Hillary Clinton had been planning on keeping on track to reach President Obama’s goal of reducing emissions by about 30 percent relative to 2005 levels by 2025. According to the independent research firm Lux Research, Trump’s proposed policies would increase carbon emissions by 16 percent by 2024 relative to Clinton’s proposed policies. This is equal to about 3.4 billion tons of carbon emissions between 2016 to 2024.
Trump would also pull the U.S. out of the landmark United Nations Paris agreement, which set a target for keeping average global temperature change below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement was designed to last through the U.S. presidential election, however, as under the pact’s rules, because the agreement already went into effect, on Nov. 4, a party would have to wait three years to pull out, with one year notice. Delegates at the United Nations COP22 in Morocco have been reeling since Trump’s win.
According to this first 100 days plan, he would prioritize getting “vital energy projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward” and removing fossil fuel restrictions. The plan also calls for ending billions in payments to U.N. for climate change programs, and channeling that money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.
Trump put Myron Ebell in charge of the EPA, the director of Center for Energy and the Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank funded by ExxonMobil and free market groups including Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. This Institute opposes federal subsidies for all types of energy, including fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. While Ebell has said “we love wind and solar”, he claims the “earth is warming modestly” and is against tax credits that would boost those industries.
But Trump might remove the EPA altogether. This would mean getting past a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. To repeal the Clean Power Plan and other regulations, Trump would need more than signing an executive order. Because the plan is being challenged by states and industry groups in court, his administration could refuse to defend it – and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell called for this “day one” of the new administration. While environmental groups might get in the way, the case would be decided by a conservative majority if it makes it to the Supreme Court.
He would appoint Mike McKenna, an energy lobbyist with ties to the industry-supported American Energy Alliance and Institute for Energy Research, to lead the Energy Department.
The Interior Department of the transition team would be led by David Bernhardt, co-chair of the natural resources department Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and an official for the George W. Bush Interior Department.
The fossil fuel industry, and other politicians, are ready for a new administration. The company backing Keystone XL, TransCanada, is planning to meet with Trump’s team to resume construction. Soon after the election was called, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, announced plans to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. House speaker Paul Ryan also said he promised to favor the economy over the environment in all cases.
Besides his environmental and climate-related proposed policies, his other platforms will likely have significant nondirect — and direct — consequences for the environment as well. Trump’s targeting of specific groups, such as deporting Mexican immigrants, will put pressure on resources, exacerbating existing conflict and possibly leading to or intensifying war over the battle for food and water, among other vital resources. Tension growing in the international community may intensify or lead to armed conflict abroad — not to mention domestically — and wars are never good for the environment.