America's contribution to the climate crisis is outsized. As this article states, the U.S. "has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet." In the first first years of the new century, U.S. policy-makers have exacerbated the problem through their failure to take the needed steps to effectively combat the climate crisis. And now OT's administration is waging open war against the unassailable scientific climate consensus with actions that include America's withdrawal from the Paris Accords, the gutting of the EPA, and the dismantling of the U.S. Climate Advisory Council.
Which brings us to the personal record and views of Donald Trump.
In the period from 2011 to 2015, Donald Trump made 115 public statements - in 140 characters or less - that affirmed his complete denial of climate change. Here is a small sampling:
Let's continue to destroy the competitiveness of our factories & manufacturing so we can fight mythical global warming. China is so happy! 8:23 AM - Nov 1, 2012
Global warming is based on faulty science and manipulated data which is proven by the emails that were leaked 12:59 PM - Nov 2, 2012
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. 1:15 PM - Nov 6, 2012
The problem w/ the concept of "global warming" is that the U.S. is spending a fortune on "fixing it" while China & others do nothing! 7:54 AM - Dec 5, 2013
We should be focusing on beautiful, clean air & not on wasteful & very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit! China & others are hurting our air 4:07 AM - Dec 15, 2013
NBC News just called it the great freeze - coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX? 5:48 PM - Jan 25, 2014
Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet! They don't believe it $$$$! 3:40 PM - Jan 26, 2014
Do you believe this one - Secretary of State John Kerry just stated that the most dangerous weapon of all today is climate change. Laughable 5:06 PM - Feb 17, 2014
They only changed the term to CLIMATE CHANGE when the words GLOBAL WARMING didn't work anymore. Come on people, get smart! 5:19 PM - Jul 14, 2014
Obama’s China ‘climate’ deal binds America with language of ‘will’ curb emissions now while China only ‘intends’ to curb in 2030. Bad deal! 3:29 PM - Nov 17, 2014
President Obama was terrible on @60Minutes tonight. He said CLIMATE CHANGE is the most important thing, not all of the current disasters! 7:43 PM - Oct 11, 2015
Trump is a well-documented opportunist and liar, famously able to reverse himself mid-sentence. So anything he's Tweeted in denying climate change - however consistent that record - may simply be part of the Machevilian genius that is Donald Trump - a well-orchestrated campaign to build his base (and you can understand Trump's "Birther" campaign as a comparable tactic). In a strategy typical of the Republicans on all matters at odds with their corporate paymasters' financial interests, His Orangeness seems to have walked-back his position on the climate crisis - but only somewhat. His "evolution" is, however, the usual artful Republican dodge:
1. I don’t believe in it. ”I don’t believe in climate change,” he told CNN in September after a long history of calling it both a hoax and a Chinese invention to undermine U.S. business interests. In May 2016, he vowed to “renegotiate … at a minimum” the Paris climate agreement, one of the Obama administration’s landmark achievements.
2. Global warming is threatening one of my golf courses. A statement of environmental impact filed by the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, owned by Trump, cited rising sea levels and extreme weather due to global warming as the reason the company needed to build a seawall to protect its coastal resort, Politico reported. The sea wall is necessary protect the course from “global warming and its effects.”
3. I never said climate change was a hoax. During the first presidential debate in late September, Trump denied ever saying climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese (though you can still read his tweet on the matter here.)
4. Trump believes in climate change, but not that it's man-made. Trump's campaign manager offered a more common Republican theory to explain Trump's views: Climate change is real, but it's "naturally occurring."
Current position: Global warming is real, but it's not man-made.
In reality, his apparent evolution is a lie - at the beginning of 2018, Orange Thing continues to demonstrate his willful ignorance, if not plain stupidity, to the truth of the climate crisis.
Against the backdrop of this very public farce of denial and misinformation by Trump, the extraordinary series of investigations by Inside Climate News, called "Exxon: The Road Not Taken," shows how decades ago Exxon's own research confirmed fossil fuels' role in global warming. ( Rex Tillerson, former Chairman and CEO of Exxon, a.k.a. Wayne Tracker, is now Trump's Secretary of State.) As ICM says of its report,
"It describes how Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago and then, without revealing all that it had learned, worked at the forefront of climate denial, manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed."
And too, the Union of Concerned Scientists released its explosive 2015 report "The Climate Deception Dossiers: Internal Fossil Fuel Industry Memos Reveal Decades of Corporate Disinformation." For all his wild statements in 144 characters, what Donald Trump did get right was his use of the word HOAX. As the report states:
"...there has been a climate hoax that continues today. It is the decades’ long campaign by a handful of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies - such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Peabody Energy - to deceive the American public by distorting the realities and risks of climate change, sometimes acting directly and sometimes acting indirectly through trade associations and front groups."
The corporate forces of Big Energy are bent on maximizing their profits to the very last drop of oil and gas, even as it knowingly kills the planet. Even as evidence of their campaign of deception mounts, Big Energy's interests are now actively protected by the Trump Administration - from the Liar-in-Chief to Rex Tillerson at State to Scott Pruitt at the EPA. It is in the actions of these men that we see a clear-and-present danger to the world, for, as Noam Chomsky has said of our current situation, "We might pass a point of no return, when the damage that we’ve done is simply uncontrollable, irreversible. And it might not be that far off." And this utter madness has led Chomsky to state "the Republican Party is the most dangerous organization in human history." (see here, here, here, and here) As he says:
I think the main damage [Trump] will do is to the world, and it's already happening. The most significant aspect of the Trump election - and it's not just Trump, it's the whole Republican Party - is their departing from the rest of the world on climate change. We have this astonishing spectacle of the United States alone in the world not only refusing to participate in efforts to deal with climate change but dedicated to undermining them. It's not just Trump, every single Republican leader is the same. It goes down to the local levels. Take a look at the primaries. In the Republican primaries, every single candidate either denied that climate change is happening. Or, when you get to the so-called moderates like Jeb Bush and [John] Kasich, they said, 'Well, maybe it's happening but we shouldn't do anything about it.' That's 100 percent refusal.
On This Page This page continues by highlighting some of the most egregious actions of the Trump Administration in year one that both rolledback the modest gains of the Obama climate "legacy," and actively accelerated the climate crisis.
The Battle Over Science in the Trump Administration
by Miranda Green...
President Donald Trump has made no secret of his desire to roll back environmental regulations and change the playing field for the fossil-fuel industry.
His administration's actions over its first six months have followed that lead, including what many scientists say is a full-fledged battle against research and facts. Last week the twitter account for the Department of Energy tweeted out an op-ed written by a scholar at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, with the headline: "In the fight between Rick Perry and climate scientists -- He's winning"
At the Interior Department, a climate scientist who has shared his thoughts on global warming was recently reassigned -- to accountant. At the Agriculture Department, the man Trump has chosen to head science as undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics has no formal hard sciences background. At the Environmental Protection Agency, where the administration has successfully delayed a number of regulations drafted under President Barack Obama, Administrator Scott Pruitt is aiming to get more industry voices into the scientific process.
Pruitt is also currently discussing how to go about putting together a "red team, blue team" effort to bring in outside experts to challenge climate science, including the scientific consensus that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a driver of global warming and its associated effects, in a back-and-forth critique with EPA experts. The endgame, critics say, is a whittling down of scientific credibility that can help loosen environmental regulations.
"When you get down there to EPA, you realize there is constant questioning of everything scientific of EPA that may have any implication down the line to have an impact on the regulated community," said Thomas Burke, former deputy assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development under Barack Obama.
Positions under fire Joel Clement was director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Interior Department, until three weeks ago. Now he's a senior adviser at the department's Office of Natural Resources Revenue -- a position he labels an accounting job.
"I was reassigned to an accounting office in the department that collects the royalty checks from the oil and gas and the fossil fuel interests," Clement told CNN. He formerly studied the impact of rising sea levels on Native American tribes in Alaska.
Clement was one of 50 at Interior who received letters in early June that they would be involuntarily reassigned to other positions. The letter he received cited a need to "improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration." Clement filed a complaint last month with the US Office of Special Counsel, citing retaliation claims from the Trump administration.
"I think the topic of science comes up all the time, and oddly it's questioned more often than it ought to be. But without the scientific experts and the policy experts that work on this issue, we're actually putting American lives at risk," Clement told CNN.
Eight Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Interior's inspector general to investigate the reassignments on the grounds that it could be an "abuse of authority." Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told Congress in June that reassignments will be part of the process meant to reduce the department's "physical footprint."
So far the Trump administration has eliminated hundreds of positions through proposed budget cuts. EPA employees are facing buyouts and threats of layoffs. There are multiple stories of additional micromanagement, including a Washington Post report of an Interior order last month to remove two climate change experts from participating in a tour of Glacier National Park on the day that Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was slated to visit.
EPA pushes debate on climate change Pruitt, who formerly filed numerous lawsuits against federal regulations during his time as Oklahoma attorney general, has made no secret of his desire to give more weight to regulated industries.
"What the American people deserve, I think, is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2," Pruitt told the Washington Post in June.
"The citizens just don't trust that EPA is honest with these numbers," Pruitt told The Wall Street Journal in February. "Let's get real, objective data, not just do modeling. Let's vigorously publish and peer-review science. Let's do honest cost-benefit work. We need to restore the trust."
Part of expanding that trust is bringing the voices of the fossil fuel industries into the mix. "We believe in dialogue with, and being responsive to, all our stakeholders," said EPA spokesperson Liz Bowman. "The difference between us and the previous administration is that we feel that the regulated community is an important stakeholder. Input from the technical and scientific experts on the ground is valuable to the regulatory process."
Regarding the "red team, blue team" concept, Bowman said, "Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh, and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing." Pruitt has also dismissed half of the scientists serving on a scientific review board that provides guidance to the EPA.
At the Energy Department, a not-yet-released report on whether the U.S. electric grid is ready for renewable energy is being led by a man who formerly worked for a think tank funded by the fossil-fuel industry. In addition, an op-ed tweeted by the Energy Department last week argued that major scientific institutions have become biased and politicized on the climate issue. The piece was written by a scholar at the Cato Institute and specifically focused on criticizing the American Meteorological Society, a non-profit professional organization for scientists and researchers.
The administration's handling of agency science advisory boards is also changing. In May, Interior froze the work of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and subcommittees -- about a third of those advisory boards are science-based. Critics warn that the administration's moves impose a clear conflict of interest.
"It's bastardizing the definition of scientific integrity," said Terry Yosie, former director of the EPA science advisory board under President Ronald Reagan. "The peoples whose interest are affected already have a place in this process. There's a public comment period. The scientific advisory process is meant to judge the weight of the scientific evidence, not how other places like specific coal plants will be affected."
How science is used; rolling back regulations Environmentalists point to the administration's move to delay or roll back federal regulations. The Trump administration throughout multiple agencies has attempted to delay a number of regulations slated to take effect this year - 47 total, according to a list of Federal Register filings compiled by a professor and law student at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. EPA leads the group, delaying and or reviewing at least 14 rules.
However, guiding rules within the EPA mandate that a regulation cannot simply be overturned, it has to be replaced by another rule and the rule itself has to be based in science. This is especially true when looking at the Clean Air Act. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are air pollutants that would be covered by the act and so EPA must protect the public from pollution. Following that decision, the EPA, as required by the court, released endangerment findings that found greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health. This document is the basis for a lot of the regulations finalized under the Obama administration.
Environmentalists believe that the EPA under Pruitt looks like it wants to reverse this endangerment finding and say that greenhouse gases don't contribute to climate change - basically reversing the science - by using the red team blue team effort, according to a source at the Union of Concerned Scientists who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak. Administration members are soliciting less feedback from scientists who work within the government agencies, critics say.
"It's kind of like the movie 'The Breakfast Club,'" said Burke. "The kids, the little brat pack, they are fessing their situations in life. ... Molly Ringwald's character says of her parents, 'They ignore me.' That's what's happening to the career staff. They are being ignored."
Clement likens the scene within the Interior Department to a chilling effect.
"There's no question there's a chill on the science enterprise within the federal government," he said. "I think there's a sense of neglect. If there's something that needs to be attended to in advance, that has not happened. And there have been many cases where the science has actually been suppressed. So at this point, the question becomes not, Are they trying to have an impact on science?' but, 'Are they doing anything illegal or inappropriate to stifle that science?'"
Written by Miranda Green, first published on CNN, August 9, 2017
Climate Change as Genocide: Inaction Equals Annihilation
introduction by Tom Engelhardt...
There are the terrorists, who get attention out of all proportion to their actual clout, and then there are those with big-time clout -- I think of them as the terrarists -- who get almost no attention at all. Back in May 2013, I came up with that term and here’s how I described those I thought it should apply to:
“We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be ‘terracide’ from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.
“The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.
“In the case of the terrorists -- and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell -- you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.”
Almost four years later, there’s a new set of names to be added to the ranks of those terrarists, includingDonald Trump, Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson, and every climate-change denialist and energy-company aider and abettor now in the ranks of the U.S. government. And almost four years later, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare points out, the early evidence of what their dystopian crimes will mean on a planetary scale is on display in Africa and Yemen -- and it couldn’t be grimmer.
In 2013, I concluded:
“To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?”
Read Klare’s piece, think about the greenhouse gases that will be pumped into the atmosphere in prodigious amounts in the Trump years, and tell me that we’re not talking about the greatest crime of this or any other century and, even among the worst butchers of history, potentially the greatest criminals of all time.
by Michael T. Klare...
Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th, Stephen O’Brien, under secretary-general of the United Nations for humanitarian affairs, informed the Security Council that 20 million people in three African countries -- Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan -- as well as in Yemen were likely to die if not provided with emergency food and medical aid. “We are at a critical point in history,” he declared. “Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the U.N.” Without coordinated international action, he added, “people will simply starve to death [or] suffer and die from disease.”
Major famines have, of course, occurred before, but never in memory on such a scale in four places simultaneously. According to O’Brien, 7.3 million people are at risk in Yemen, 5.1 million in the Lake Chad area of northeastern Nigeria, 5 million in South Sudan, and 2.9 million in Somalia. In each of these countries, some lethal combination of war, persistent drought, and political instability is causing drastic cuts in essential food and water supplies. Of those 20 million people at risk of death, an estimated 1.4 million are young children.
Despite the potential severity of the crisis, U.N. officials remain confident that many of those at risk can be saved if sufficient food and medical assistance is provided in time and the warring parties allow humanitarian aid workers to reach those in the greatest need. “We have strategic, coordinated, and prioritized plans in every country,” O’Brien said. “With sufficient and timely financial support, humanitarians can still help to prevent the worst-case scenario.”
All in all, the cost of such an intervention is not great: an estimated $4.4 billion to implement that U.N. action plan and save most of those 20 million lives.
The international response? Essentially, a giant shrug of indifference.
To have time to deliver sufficient supplies, U.N. officials indicated that the money would need to be in pocket by the end of March. It’s now April and international donors have given only a paltry $423 million -- less than a tenth of what’s needed. While, for instance, President Donald Trump sought Congressional approval for a $54 billion increase in U.S. military spending (bringing total defense expenditures in the coming year to $603 billion) and launched $89 million worth of Tomahawk missiles against a single Syrian air base, the U.S. has offered precious littleto allay the coming disaster in three countries in which it has taken military actions in recent years. As if to add insult to injury, on February 15th Trump told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he was inclined to sell his country 12 Super-Tucano light-strike aircraft, potentially depleting Nigeria of $600 million it desperately needs for famine relief.
Moreover,just as those U.N. officials were pleading fruitlessly for increased humanitarian funding and an end to the fierce and complex set of conflicts in South Sudan andYemen (so that they could facilitate the safe delivery of emergency food supplies to those countries), the Trump administration was announcing plans to reduce American contributions to the United Nations by 40%. It was also preparing to send additional weaponry to Saudi Arabia, the country most responsible for devastating air strikes on Yemen’s food and water infrastructure. This goes beyond indifference. This is complicity in mass extermination.
Like many people around the world, President Trump was horrified by images of young children suffocating from the nerve gas used by Syrian government forces in an April 4th raid on the rebel-held village of Khan Sheikhoun. “That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me -- big impact,” he told reporters. “That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that.” In reaction to those images, he ordered a barrage of cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base the following day. But Trump does not seem to have seen -- or has ignored -- equally heart-rending images of young children dying from the spreading famines in Africa and Yemen. Those children evidently don’t merit White House sympathy. Who knows why not just Donald Trump but the world is proving so indifferent to the famines of 2017? It could simply be donor fatigue or a media focused on the daily psychodrama that is now Washington, or growing fears about the unprecedented global refugee crisis and, of course, terrorism. It’s a question worth a piece in itself, but I want to explore another one entirely.
Here’s the question I think we all should be asking: Is this what a world battered by climate change will be like -- one in which tens of millions, even hundreds of millions of people perish from disease, starvation, and heat prostration while the rest of us, living in less exposed areas, essentially do nothing to prevent their annihilation?
Famine, Drought, and Climate Change First, though, let’s consider whether the famines of 2017 are even a valid indicator of what a climate-changed planet might look like. After all, severe famines accompanied by widespread starvation have occurred throughout human history. In addition, the brutal armed conflicts now underway in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are at least in part responsible for the spreading famines. In all four countries, there are forces -- Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia, assorted militias and the government in South Sudan, and Saudi-backed forces in Yemen -- interfering with the delivery of aid supplies. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that pervasive water scarcity and prolonged drought (expected consequences of global warming) are contributing significantly to the disastrous conditions in most of them. The likelihood that droughts this severe would be occurring simultaneously in the absence of climate change is vanishingly small.
In fact, scientists generally agree that global warming will ensure diminished rainfall and ever more frequent droughts over much of Africa and the Middle East. This, in turn, will heighten conflicts of every sort and endanger basic survival in a myriad of ways. In their most recent 2014 assessment of global trends, the scientists of the prestigious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that “agriculture in Africa will face significant challenges in adapting to climate changes projected to occur by mid-century, as negative effects of high temperatures become increasingly prominent.” Even in 2014, as that report suggested, climate change was already contributing to water scarcity and persistent drought conditions in large parts of Africa and the Middle East. Scientific studies had, for instance, revealed an “overall expansion of desert and contraction of vegetated areas” on that continent. With arable land in retreat and water supplies falling, crop yields were already in decline in many areas, while malnutrition rates were rising -- precisely the conditions witnessed in more extreme forms in the famine-affected areas today.
It’s seldom possible to attribute any specific weather-induced event, including droughts or storms, to global warming with absolute certainty. Such things happen with or without climate change. Nonetheless, scientists are becoming even more confident that severe storms and droughts (especially when occurring in tandem or in several parts of the world at once) are best explained as climate-change related. If, for instance, a type of storm that might normally occur only once every hundred years occurs twice in one decade and four times in the next, you can be reasonably confident that you’re in a new climate era.
It will undoubtedly take more time for scientists to determine to what extent the current famines in Africa and Yemen are mainly climate-change-induced and to what extent they are the product of political and military mayhem and disarray. But doesn’t this already offer us a sense of just what kind of world we are now entering? History and social science research indicate that, as environmental conditions deteriorate, people will naturally compete over access to vital materials and the opportunists in any society -- warlords, militia leaders, demagogues, government officials, and the like -- will exploit such clashes for their personal advantage. “The data suggests a definite link between food insecurity and conflict,” points out Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. “Climate is an added stress factor.” In this sense, the current famines in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen provide us with a perfect template for our future, one in which resource wars and climate mayhem team up as temperatures continue their steady rise.
The Selective Impact of Climate Change In some popular accounts of the future depredations of climate change, there is a tendency to suggest that its effects will be felt more or less democratically around the globe -- that we will all suffer to some degree, if not equally, from the bad things that happen as temperatures rise. And it’s certainly true that everyone on this planet will feel the effects of global warming in some fashion, but don’t for a second imagine that the harshest effects will be distributed anything but deeply inequitably. It won’t even be a complicated equation. As with so much else, those at the bottom rungs of society -- the poor, the marginalized, and those in countries already at or near the edge -- will suffer so much more (and so much earlier) than those at the top and in the most developed, wealthiest countries.
As a start, the geophysical dynamics of climate change dictate that, when it comes to soaring temperatures and reduced rainfall, the most severe effects are likely to be felt first and worst in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America -- home to hundreds of millions of people who depend on rain-fed agriculture to sustain themselves and their families. Research conducted by scientists in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Great Britain found that the rise in the number of extremely hot days is already more intense in tropical latitudes and disproportionately affects poor farmers.
Living at subsistence levels, such farmers and their communities are especially vulnerable to drought and desertification. In a future in which climate-change disasters are commonplace, they will undoubtedly be forced to choose ever more frequently between the unpalatable alternatives of starvation or flight. In other words, if you thought the global refugee crisis was bad today, just wait a few decades.
Climate change is also intensifying the dangers faced by the poor and marginalized in another way. As interior croplands turn to dust, ever more farmers are migrating to cities, especially coastal ones. If you want a historical analogy, think of the great Dust Bowl migration of the “Okies” from the interior of the U.S. to the California coast in the 1930s. In today’s climate-change era, the only available housing such migrants are likely to find will be in vast and expanding shantytowns (or “informal settlements,” as they’re euphemistically called), often located in floodplains and low-lying coastal areas exposed to storm surges and sea-level rise. As global warming advances, the victims of water scarcity and desertification will be afflicted anew. Those storm surges will destroy the most exposed parts of the coastal mega-cities in which they will be clustered. In other words, for the uprooted and desperate, there will be no escaping climate change. As the latestIPCC report noted, “Poor people living in urban informal settlements, of which there are [already] about one billion worldwide, are particularly vulnerable to weather and climate effects.”
The scientific literature on climate change indicates that the lives of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed will be the first to be turned upside down by the effects of global warming. “The socially and economically disadvantaged and the marginalized are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and extreme events,” the IPCC indicated in 2014. “Vulnerability is often high among indigenous peoples, women, children, the elderly, and disabled people who experience multiple deprivations that inhibit them from managing daily risks and shocks.” It should go without saying that these are also the people least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming in the first place (something no less true of the countries most of them live in).
Inaction Equals Annihilation In this context, consider the moral consequences of inaction on climate change. Once it seemed that the process of global warming would occur slowly enough to allow societies to adapt to higher temperatures without excessive disruption, and that the entire human family would somehow make this transition more or less simultaneously. That now looks more and more like a fairy tale. Climate change is occurring far too swiftly for all human societies to adapt to it successfully. Only the richest are likely to succeed in even the most tenuous way. Unless colossal efforts are undertaken now to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, those living inless affluent societies can expect to suffer from extremes of flooding, drought, starvation, disease, and death in potentially staggering numbers.
And you don’t need a Ph.D. in climatology to arrive at this conclusion either. The overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree that any increase in average world temperatures that exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era -- some opt for a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius -- will alter the global climate system drastically. In such a situation, a number of societies will simply disintegrate in the fashion of South Sudan today, producing staggering chaos and misery. So far, the world has heated up by at least one of those two degrees, and unless we stop burning fossil fuels in quantity soon, the 1.5 degree level will probably be reached in the not-too-distant future.
Worse yet, on our present trajectory, it seems highly unlikely that the warming process will stop at 2 or even 3 degrees Celsius, meaning that laterin this century many of the worst-case climate-change scenarios -- the inundation of coastal cities, the desertification of vast interior regions, and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many areas -- will become everyday reality.
In other words, think of the developments in those three African lands and Yemen as previews of what far larger parts of our world could look like in another quarter-century or so: a world in which hundreds of millions of people are at risk of annihilation from disease or starvation, or are on the march or at sea, crossing borders, heading for the shantytowns of major cities, looking for refugee camps or other places where survival appears even minimally possible. If the world’s response to the current famine catastrophe and the escalating fears of refugees in wealthy countries are any indication, people will die in vast numbers without hope of help. In other words, failing to halt the advance of climate change -- to the extent that halting it, at this point, remains within our power -- means complicity with mass human annihilation. We know, or at this point should know, that such scenarios are already on the horizon. We still retain the power, if not to stop them, then to radically ameliorate what they will look like, so our failure to do all we can means that we become complicitin what -- not to mince words -- is clearly going to be a process of climate genocide. How can those of us in countries responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions escape such a verdict? And if such a conclusion is indeed inescapable, then each of us must do whatever we can to reduce our individual, community, and institutional contributions to global warming. Even if we are already doing a lot -- as many of us are -- more is needed. Unfortunately, we Americans are living not only in a time of climate crisis, but in the era of President Trump, which means the federal government and its partners in the fossil fuel industry will be wielding their immense powers to obstruct all imaginable progress on limiting global warming. They will be the true perpetrators ofclimate genocide. As a result, the rest of us bear a moral responsibility not just to do what we can at the local level to slow the pace of climate change, but also to engage in political struggle to counteract or neutralize the acts of Trump and company. Only dramatic and concerted action on multiple fronts can prevent the human disasters now unfolding in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen from becoming the global norm.
Written by Michael T. Klare, first published in TomDispatch, April 20, 2017
Trump and the Paris Accord
by Anthony DiMaggio...
The world is already looking at the Trump administration with derision after its announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change. And in the decades ahead, lamentations of American hubris, ignorance, and stupidity in dealing with the environmental crisis will continue to grow. Never has the scientific community been surer about the dangers of runaway global warming, and yet Americans have largely abdicated their responsibility for pressuring the government to act on this vital issue. Despite abundant evidence documenting the dangers of climate change, we have done nothing to combat the threat, and Trump’s actions will further intensify the dangers associated with growing emissions over the next few decades.
With the U.S. pull out of the Paris Agreement, what little commitment the U.S. had to combating climate change is now gone. The American right will rejoice, as they have long embraced paranoid conspiracy theories attacking environmentalists as alarmists who have been duped by scientists engaged in an elaborate hoax - one supposedly motivated by a quest for attention and grant money. Some on the left will treat the Trump administration with kids gloves, and even congratulate Trump for stripping away what was left of the fig-leaf of an American “commitment” to addressing runaway warming.
But for many of us who have been warning about the dangers associated with climate change for the last few decades, now is a time to recognize that things are moving from bad to worse. At least under the Paris Agreement, there was a framework activists could use to pressure political officials to cut emissions growth, and pursue real cuts to greenhouse gas emissions moving forward. But there’s little chance of that now under the Trump administration, with a president who is willfully ignorant on climate change, scientifically illiterate, and hell-bent on reviving a coal industry that’s been dead in the water for some time now.
I don’t want to romanticize the Paris Agreement. It’s a short-term plan that does not extend beyond a 2030 emissions target, and even if that target is met, it will merely level off global CO2 emissions, rather than reduce them. To avoid more than two degrees (Celsius) of warming by the end of century, global carbon emissions must fall to zero between 2070 and 2100, with a radical cut in such emissions beginning by no later than 2030. Still, the Paris Agreement is the necessary first step in avoiding the worst effects of climate change, and leveling off CO2 emissions is certainly preferable to a significant increase in those emissions in coming decades.
Who is ultimately to blame for the catastrophic state we find ourselves in today? I don’t think there is just one answer. Obviously, the fossil fuel industry is a prime culprit. Corporations like Exxon Mobil and others have known – due to their own scientific research going as far back as the late-1970s – that global warming is a very real threat. Important investigative studies have exposed these corporations for pushing junk “science” and seeking to sow doubt on whether humans are responsible for warming the planet. These works are numerous, including: “Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming,” by James Hoggan; “The Heat is On: Climate Crisis, the Cover-Up, the prescription,” by Ross Gelbspan; and “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming,” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. As the above works make clear, the name of the game is convincing the public to deprioritize dealing with climate change, for fear of the negative effects government action may have on the economy and jobs. Fossil fuel-funded pundits, PR firms, and scientists don’t need to convince the public that global warming is a fraud. All they need to do is create doubt about whether climate change is a serious problem, thereby blunting the development of a critical public consciousness and any sort of real citizen push for change. And so far, the fossil fuel industry has been incredibly successful in its efforts.
The Republican Party, under the leadership of George W. Bush and Donald Trump, has been a fundamental threat to the planet. Bush first claimed that global warming was a fiction. Later his administration quietly admitted that it was real, but claimed that instead of addressing the problem head-on, the “solution” was simply that humans would “adapt” to a warming planet. Working under the “adaptation” framework, the Bush administration abandoned the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which aimed for a modest 5 percent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, to be achieved by 2010. The agreement was never more than a first step in addressing climate change, but at least it represented some sort of effort to address the issue, which is more than one can say for the U.S. “response” thus far.
The “progress” made in dealing with climate change under Democrats and Barack Obama was largely illusory. While Obama has admitted that the effects of climate change are “terrifying” to contemplate, he did nothing to prioritize the issue in his first term. He was no leader of the environmental movement during the late 2000s and early 2010s, and did little to promote legislation that would mandate CO2 emission cuts. Had he wished to demonstrate a serious commitment to battling climate change, he would have announced an executive action on day one of his tenure, back in early 2009, that could have been implemented well before the specter of a Trump presidency even became a topic of discussion. The lesson of the “Affordable Care Act” is that it’s far harder for Republicans to slow down or stop a government program or initiative in its tracks when it’s already been put in motion. A roll back of climate change regulations would have been much more difficult if these regulations were already implemented years before Trump took office.
Not only did Obama refuse to prioritize CO2 emission cuts during much of his presidency, he encouraged the expansion of fossil fuel consumption. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have grown significantly over the last few years following the 2008 economic crash. Part of the growing consumption had to do with federal encouragement of oil drilling, which went well beyond supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Through the Export-Import Bank, the Obama administration allocated $34 billion (through 2016) to more than five dozen fossil fuel projects across the globe related to coal, gas, and oil production. Leases granted for oil and gas drilling on federal lands grew during Obama’s second term, while tens of millions of acres of federal lands were opened up for oil exploration and extraction, and “processing times” for granting permits for fossil fuel extraction were shortened significantly.
At the end of the day, what really matters is whether the U.S. has succeeded or failed in cutting CO2 emissions. And on this front the Bush and Obama presidencies were resounding failures. In 1990, the U.S. emitted about 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. But throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, the U.S. averaged between 5.5 to 6 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year. The numbers fell to the lower part of this range following the post-2008 economic slowdown, but quickly increased by late in Obama’s second term. By 2015, the U.S. averaged 6.6 billion tons of CO2 emissions, an increase of a third from the 1990 level. And the numbers will only increase with population growth in the coming decades if there is no federal effort to reverse this trend. The Obama administration’s “commitment” to limiting emissions was all set-up with no follow through. His image as an environmentalist was based on the rhetoric of “hope” for future change and on an unimplemented plan to reduce emissions.
Despite his poor environmental record, Obama looks like a climate crusader in comparison to Donald Trump. At least his administration was potentially open to pressure from environmental groups and conservationists, which is more than can be said for Trump. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. – the second largest carbon polluter in the world – has continued the march toward climate oblivion. Under Scott Pruitt, the EPA is now run by an avid climate change denier who has a history of working for the fossil fuels industry to fight government regulations related to clean water and regulation of coal-burning power plants. Trump himself has embraced a delusional commitment to “bringing back” the coal industry, despite a national decline in coal consumption of nearly 25 percent in the last ten years due to the rise of fracking and natural gas consumption. The abandonment of the Paris Accord means that the world will have to wait another four years before there is even a chance of the U.S. moving forward with government regulations for cutting CO2 emissions growth.
Complaining about Obama and Trump is convenient at a time when public distrust of government officials is rampant. It’s easy to blame Obama for talking a big game about addressing climate change, considering his nearly non-existent follow through. And Trump’s contempt for human sustainability is beyond deplorable, threatening the survival of the species as we move into an increasingly dangerous, unknown future. But it will make Americans much more uncomfortable to consider that the public itself is one of the prime culprits in the failure to deal with climate change. But it’s hard to exonerate Americans for their role in stoking this crisis. By acquiescing to the ecologically disastrous actions of the fossil fuel industry, Americans have refused to take seriously the threat of climate change. This point is difficult to deny following Trump’s electoral victory and his assault on the Paris Agreement, both of which have been consented to either actively or passively by large segments of the public.
Available evidence regarding public opinion of climate change is encouraging in some ways, and maddening in others. On the positive side, the number of Americans recognizing the problem has grown in recent years. CBS Polling finds that the number of Americans who feel that global warming is having a “serious impact now” increased from 43 percent in 2009 to 56 percent in 2016. Pew Research Centerpolling finds that, while 57 percent of Americans thought there was “solid evidence” that “the earth is warming” in 2009, the number grew to 72 percent by 2014. On the other hand, just 46 percent of Americans admitted in a 2016 Bloomberg poll that climate change represents a “serious threat” to the world. Pew polling from the same year revealed that only 27 percent of Americans felt “almost all” climate scientists agree that human behavior is mostly responsible for climate change, despite most all climatologists having come to this conclusion. The same poll found that just 48 percent of Americans were willing to admit that climate change was occurring “due to human activity.”
It is difficult, perhaps impossible to address a problem when half of the public refuses to recognize that it even exists. And when nearly half the voting public prefers a global warming flat-earther who takes pride in his scientific illiteracy and ignorance, mass public pressure on the political system to address climate change will be significantly blunted. Sadly, there’s no other way to put it: Americans have empowered an ecocidal maniac who is doing everything in his power to escalate the environmental dangers we face in the coming decades.
Most Americans refuse to recognize the magnitude of the threat, preferring willful ignorance. Gallup polling from 2014 to 2017 finds that just one to four percent of the American public feels that “pollution” or “the environment” represent “the most important problem” facing the nation. The public prefers to look instead at issues that more immediately affect them in their day to day lives, such as health care, jobs, and the economy. The specter of terror threats also poll well in terms of being recognized widely as a “most important problem.” Even if only a miniscule number of Americans will ever be the victim of terrorist violence, the non-stop attention to the spectacle of terrorism in U.S. political and media discourse has meant the redirection of public attention away from climate change. Americans’ tunnel vision regarding the environmental problems we face as a nation has meant the de-prioritization of climate concerns.
The foundation of public ignorance is based on numerous factors. First, the twin powers of partisanship and ideology have blunted public pressure for reform. Conservative Republican Americans have allowed their contempt for science, their distrust of scientists, and their worship of “free market” capitalism blind them to the dangers we now face on the climate front. This segment of America has fallen victim to clumsy Rush Limbaugh-propaganda talking points, which have been instrumental to the dumbing down of national political discourse. Second, the threat of climate change has not yet fully materialized in a way in which it can be easily processed by your average “Joe” or “Jane,” who do not closely follow the news, politics, or events occurring in the world around them. Perhaps when the American Midwest loses its entire corn and soy crops for multiple years in a row, threatening our food supply and increasing the danger of famine, Americans will finally begin to take serious notice. But until these kinds of catastrophic events occur, Americans are unlikely to prioritize dealing with climate change.
Finally, Americans are a selfish people, and are the product of a “me first,” consumer-centered culture that embraces instant gratification, convenience, and hedonism. Under this status quo, it’s convenient to push off responsibility for dealing with climate change to other nations – as the U.S. has done – while reaping the short-term benefits of fossil fuel consumption.
There is no need to speculate over the role of American selfishness in stoking the threat of a warming planet. It’s already been documented empirically. The Pew Research Center, for example, found in a late-2015 poll that the intensity of carbon pollution across nations was directly linked to level of public concern over climate change. Countries that polluted the most were conveniently the least concerned about the damage they were doing. In countries such as Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana, which are each responsible for almost none of the global CO2 emissions (measured in CO2 emissions per capita in metric tons), concern with climate change was about 25 percent higher than in the worst offending countries, such as the U.S., Australia, and Russia. On average, high-polluting countries were about 20 percent less likely to be concerned with climate change than countries producing little to no CO2 emissions.
As the old proverb goes: necessity is the mother of invention. Unfortunately, the necessity for action on climate change seems to be dependent on the rapidly escalating threat to human survival via global warming. This threat will have to intensify before the American public becomes willing to address the problem at hand. The election of Donald Trump demonstrates that the public is simply not yet willing to tackle the threat of climate change. When Americans will wake up from their apathy-induced climate coma remains to be seen.
Written by Anthony DiMaggio, first published in Counterpunch, June 5, 2017
Ending the 'crushing attack' of Obama's climate legacy
by Alex Guillen...
President Donald Trump ordered his administration to begin dismantling his predecessor’s climate change policies on Tuesday with a sweeping directive to end what he called a “crushing attack” on the U.S. economy - by halting efforts to reduce the carbon pollution of electric utilities, oil and gas drillers and coal miners.
The executive order Trump signed represents his biggest blow yet to former President Barack Obama’s climate legacy. But it does not go as far as some conservatives would like to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gases, nor will it begin to separate the U.S. from a landmark international climate accord — two areas of intense disagreement within the administration.
“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump told an audience at the EPA headquarters signing, where he was joined by a group of coal miners whom he promised would be put back to work quickly. “We’re going to have clean coal. Really clean coal,” Trump added. “Together we will create millions of good American jobs, also so many energy jobs, and really lead to unbelievable prosperity.” Democrats argue that Trump is ignoring the risks of climate change for the sake of rewarding supporters in the fossil fuel industry.
“Thanks to this executive order, our future is looking darker, it’s looking dirtier and it’s looking less prosperous,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del) told a press conference. “Today Donald Trump is shirking our nation’s responsibilities, disregarding clear science and undoing the significant progress that we’ve made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come.”
After last week’s embarrassing failure of Trump’s attempt to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law, the energy executive order offers the president a chance to refocus on another key campaign-trail promise: unleashing the American energy industry. The order comes on the heels of Trump’s move to ease Obama’s ambitious vehicle fuel efficiency requirements and his order to reverse EPA’s controversial Waters of the U.S. rule. The president has also recently signed legislation undoing Obama-era rules on Appalachian coal mining and energy companies’ payments to foreign governments.
Trump's order calls for the EPA to rewrite tough rules that critics said make it virtually impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant, and he instructed the Interior Department to end Obama’s moratorium on new coal mines on federal lands, among other steps. Additionally, the president’s “energy independence” executive order also repeals several Obama-era environmental directives aimed at reducing the federal government’s own carbon footprint, and it directs agencies to ferret out any additional policies that “result in impediments” to U.S. energy production, a likely reference to restrictions on fracking and offshore drilling. The president also told federal regulators to stop using the “social cost of carbon,” which attempts to quantify the effects of climate change, in economic analyses of future rules.
“There is every reason to believe that the federal government will no longer seek to punish American consumers and businesses for using the energy resources that fuel our economy,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement welcoming the order.
But Trump has not ordered EPA to reconsider the underlying policy that lets it regulate carbon emissions — the 2009 “endangerment finding” in which it declared that greenhouse gas pollution threatens human health and welfare. Nor will he address whether the U.S. will stay in the 2015 Paris climate accord.
“We’re happy with it so far and we look forward to the right decisions on Paris and endangerment, but I think those are still to be made and they’re a ways down the road,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the former leader of Trump’s EPA transition team.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt went on national TV earlier this month to declare that carbon dioxide is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” a statement that is at odds with the conclusions of the vast majority of climate scientists, including those at his own agency. But Pruitt has not followed up on that statement with any effort to reverse the Obama-era endangerment finding — a factor that sources say contributed to last week’s abrupt departure of a Trump appointee from the agency.
On Monday, a writer for Breitbart.com, the site previously run by White House strategist Steve Bannon, suggested that a failure to revoke the endangerment finding would be grounds for Pruitt to resign. “If Scott Pruitt is not up to that task, then maybe it’s about time he did the decent thing and handed over the reins to someone who is,” wrote James Delingpole, a prominent climate skeptic.
The White House has not ruled out later revisiting the endangerment finding, which Trump promised on the campaign trail to review. But environmentalists hope the administration decides that would be too much trouble, given that the policy already survived judicial scrutiny, and that courts are unlikely to support revoking it given the overwhelming scientific data on climate change.
Trump has not nominated anyone to fill key leadership positions below Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, leaving open the question of how quickly his order will yield any concrete results. “It’s going to be harder if you don’t have those positions filled,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Unless, actually, their intention is never to fill them and work through political operatives who are not accountable.”
Trump’s advisers are split over whether to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, which Obama joined with a pledge to reduce U.S. emissions at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. The U.S. would face no penalty for missing that target, but many conservatives nonetheless say Trump should abandon the agreement altogether, as he pledged to do during the campaign. But more moderate advisers, including Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, fear that pulling out would damage relations with key U.S. allies. Administration officials are now considering a middle-ground approach: Stay in the deal in exchange for more international support for technologies to reduce emissions from fossil fuels.
The order was also silent on a carbon tax, another issue that has become a flashpoint in disputes between moderates and hardliners in the White House. Despite the lofty rhetoric coming out of the White House, Tuesday’s order will have relatively little immediate effect. It will take EPA years to rewrite its Clean Power Plan and accompanying rules on future power plants - both of which courts already had frozen while lawsuits play out.
The Trump administration plans to ask federal courts to suspend lawsuits over the EPA climate regulations and send the rules back to the agency to be rewritten or withdrawn. But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments on the Clean Power Plan six months ago, does not have to go along. The appeals court judges could rule any day on the Clean Power Plan, and a separate D.C. Circuit panel has scheduled oral arguments on the future plant rule for April 17.
If EPA will not defend the regulation, environmentalists and states like California and New York have indicated they will step up and do so. And the ultimate fate of EPA’s climate authority likely will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007 that the agency had to regulate greenhouse gases if they endanger public health - but did not say how.
Trump’s plans for the social cost of carbon are less clear. The Obama administration estimated of that each ton of carbon dioxide imposes $36 in costs to society to evaluate its climate rules. But Republicans and fossil energy supporters argued it arrived at that figure by counting global benefits while specifying only domestic costs - and they complain the metric was not subjected to a traditional notice-and-comment period before it was employed. Critics also said the Obama administration used the social cost of carbon to impose stricter rules at EPA, the Energy Department and elsewhere that would be too costly to justify otherwise. Many environmentalists, meanwhile, complained that the amount was too low.
Whether Trump significantly lowers the cost of carbon or abolishes it altogether, the change could have a serious impact on energy regulations that will play out over a period of years. And it remains unclear how the courts might react. Federal judges have upheld agencies’ use of the metric before, but some may be inclined to give deference to the Trump administration over what amounts to a highly technical calculation.
Meanwhile, Trump’s order will also lead to the resumption of federal coal leasing. But major coal companies are hardly champing at the bit to sign new leases on federal land, although the Bureau of Land Management could make new tracts available relatively quickly. For example, a spokesman for Peabody Energy, which mines more U.S. coal than anyone else, told Bloomberg that the company will not need a new lease in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin for “approximately a decade.”
The Obama administration imposed a moratorium in February 2016 as part of a three-year review of the federal coal program. That followed reports from the Government Accountability Office, Interior’s inspector general and a coalition of environmentalists and government spending watchdogs that concluded Interior was undervaluing coal on public lands.
Zinke hinted earlier this month that he will continue the underlying review, despite lifting the moratorium, to ensure taxpayers get the full value of coal being sold off of federal lands. It’s not clear that the moratorium cost any jobs, particularly since most coal mining is happening on private rather than public lands. The National Mining Association has not calculated the costs of the moratorium so far, but the group noted that coal mines on federal lands employ 14,000 miners.
Written by Alex Guillen, first published in Politico, March 28, 2017
Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama's Climate Change Legacy
by Coral Davenport...
President Trump is poised in the coming days to announce his plans to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, while also gutting several smaller but significant policies aimed at curbing global warming.
The moves are intended to send an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world that Mr. Trump intends to follow through on his campaign vows to rip apart every element of what the president has called Mr. Obama’s “stupid” policies to address climate change. The timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, however.
The executive actions will follow the White House’s release last week of a proposed budget that would eliminate climate change research and prevention programs across the federal government and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, more than any other agency. Mr. Trump also announced last week that he had ordered Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, to revise the agency’s stringent standards on planet-warming tailpipe pollution from vehicles, another of Mr. Obama’s key climate change policies.
While the White House is not expected to explicitly say the United States is withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, and people familiar with the White House deliberations say Mr. Trump has not decided whether to do so, the policy reversals would make it virtually impossible to meet the emissions reduction goals set by the Obama administration under the international agreement.
In an announcement that could come as soon as Thursday or as late as next month, according to people familiar with the White House’s planning, Mr. Trump will order Mr. Pruitt to withdraw and rewrite a set of Obama-era regulations known as the Clean Power Plan, according to a draft document obtained by The New York Times. The Obama rule was devised to shut down hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and freeze construction of new coal plants, while replacing them with vast wind and solar farms. Continue reading the main storyThe Trump White HouseThe historic moments, head-spinning developments and inside-the-White House intrigue.
The draft also lays out options for legally blocking or weakening about a half-dozen additional Obama-era executive orders and policies on climate change. At a campaign-style rally on Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Mr. Trump told a cheering audience that he is preparing an executive action that would “save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work.”
Experts in environmental law say it will not be possible for Mr. Trump to quickly or simply roll back the most substantive elements of Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, noting that the process presents a steep legal challenge that could take many years and is likely to end up before the Supreme Court. Economists are skeptical that a rollback of the rules would restore lost coal jobs because the demand for coal has been steadily shrinking for years.
Scientists and climate policy advocates around the world say they are watching the administration’s global warming actions and statements with deep worry. Many reacted with deep concern to Mr. Pruitt’s remarks this month that he did not believe carbon dioxide was a primary driver of climate change, a statement at odds with the global scientific consensus. They also noted the remarks last week by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, in justifying Mr. Trump’s proposed cuts to climate change research programs. “As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mr. Mulvaney said at a White House briefing.
“The message they are sending to the rest of the world is that they don’t believe climate change is serious. It’s shocking to see such a degree of ignorance from the United States,” said Mario J. Molina, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist from Mexico who advises nations on climate change policy.
The policy reversals also signal that Mr. Trump has no intention of following through on Mr. Obama’s formal pledges under the Paris accord, under which nearly every country in the world submitted plans detailing actions to limit global warming over the coming decade.
Under the accord as it stands, the United States has pledged to reduce its greenhouse pollution about 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That can be achieved only if the United States not only implements the Clean Power Plan and tailpipe-pollution rules, but also tightens them or adds more policies in future years.
“The message clearly is, ‘We won’t do what the United States has promised to do,’” Mr. Molina said.
In addition to directing Mr. Pruitt to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, the draft order instructs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request that a federal court halt consideration of a 28-state lawsuit against the regulation. The case was argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in September, and the court is expected to release a decision in the coming months on whether to uphold or strike down the rule.
According to the draft, Mr. Trump is also expected to announce that he will lift a moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands that had been announced last year by the Obama administration. He is also expected to order White House economists to revisit an Obama-era budgeting metric known as the social cost of carbon. Economists and policy makers used the metric to place a dollar cost on the economic impact of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution: about $36 per ton. That measure formed the Obama administration’s economic justification for issuing climate change regulations that would harm some industries, such as coal mining, noting that those costs would be outweighed by the economic benefits of preventing billions of tons of planet-warming pollution.
Eliminating or lowering the social cost of carbon could provide the Trump administration the economic justification for putting forth less-stringent regulations.
The draft order would also rescind an executive order by Mr. Obama that all federal agencies take climate change into account when considering any form of environmental permitting. Unlike the rollback of the power plant and vehicle regulations, which could take years and will be subject to legal challenges, Mr. Trump can make the changes to the coal mining ban and undo Mr. Obama’s executive orders with the stroke of a pen.
White House staff members and energy lobbyists who work closely with them say they have been expecting Mr. Trump to make the climate change announcements for weeks, ever since Mr. Pruitt was confirmed to head the E.P.A. on Feb. 17, but the announcement has been repeatedly rescheduled. The delays of the one-page announcement have largely been a result of disorganization and a chaotic policy and planning process, said people familiar with that process who asked to speak anonymously to avoid angering Mr. Trump.
One reason for the confusion, these people said, is internal disputes about the challenging legal process required to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. While Mr. Trump may announce with great fanfare his intent to roll back the regulations, the legal steps required to fulfill that announcement are lengthy and the outcome uncertain.
“Trump’s announcements have zero impact,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. “They don’t change existing law at all.”
Much of that task will now fall to Mr. Pruitt. “To undo the rule, the E.P.A. will now have to follow the same procedure that was followed to put the regulations in place,” said Mr. Lazarus, pointing to a multiyear process of proposing draft rules, gathering public comment and forming a legal defense against an expected barrage of lawsuits almost certain to end up before the Supreme Court.
Written by Coral Davenport, first published in the New York Times, March 21, 2017