In nearly thirty years of working on green issues and climate change, the outlook has never looked this challenging.
In the mid-nineties, I wrote a book called Green Backlash, which looked at the assault on the global environmental movement. We thought it was bad then. It is worse now.
A colleague, Dave Helvard, wrote another book the War Against the Greens, which also documented what was happening. Well we face a new war. Plain and simple.
We face the prospect of decades of hard fought progress on environmental issues, clean air and climate change being ripped up in the coming months by the rich and powerful in the Trump Administration.
“Exxonmobil CEO Rex Tillerson in charge of the US climate negotiations team? This is my worst nightmare”, wrote one long term activist I know, who has expertly studied and exposed Exxon’s decades long climate denial campaign.
Others are equally perturbed.
Steve Coll, who is more qualified that most to write about Tillerson, having penned the definitive book about Exxon, Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, noted the proposed nomination is “astonishing on many levels”. Whilst many environmentalists worry about Tillerson’s views on climate change, it is his relationship to Putin which equally of concern.
Coll notes he has “forged close relations with both President Vladimir Putin and Igor Sechin, the close Putin ally who runs Rosneft, one of Russia’s oil-and-gas giants … If Tillerson is confirmed, he would be in a position to benefit the corporation where he spent his career, by, for example, advocating for the easing of Russian sanctions.”
Tillerson and Exxon have long argued against sanctions. They would, of course, as Russia has the oil that Exxon desperately wants. They were thwarted in carrying out a $500 billion oil deal due to sanctions. No any longer under Trump.
Moreover, how will Tillerson split Exxon’s interests to those of the US, you might ask?
Indeed, the Wall Street Journal argues if Tillerson is selected: “this could introduce sticky conflicts of interest”. They will be sticky and very oily. Even on a personal level, if nothing else with a huge Exxon pension pot Tillerson stands to personally benefit significantly from any deal with Russia.
Stand back and it all begins to make sense. Putin meddles in US election, by leaking anti-Clinton information. US electors vote in Trump. Trump picks Tillerson. Tillerson is close to Putin. US drops sanctions. Exxon goes into Arctic. Bye Bye climate. You get the gist.
Others are equally alarmed. “The aligning interests between Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s choice for U.S. president (Donald Trump), and Big Oil represents the gravest threat to humanity (and democracy) since the rise of the Axis powers in the 1930s,” notes Dr. Joe Romm, the Founding Editor of Climate Progress.
He adds: “Imagine how much havoc Putin, Trump, and a new oily Secretary of State could wreak on future negotiations by coercing other countries not to keep making new pledges to ratchet down their emissions, which is the cornerstone of Paris’s strategy to avoid catastrophic climate change.”
Just Tillerson’s appointment alone would be enough to be worried. But we also have Scott Pruitt, who is Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is an outspoken critic of the EPA and another climate denier, who as one commentator has noted “basically served as a mouthpiece for talking points dreamed up by the oil and gas industries”.
As the New York Times outlined in an unusually strong opinion piece by its editorial board: “Had Donald Trump spent an entire year scouring the country for someone to weaken clean air and clean water laws and repudiate America’s leadership role in the global battle against climate change, he could not have found a more suitable candidate than Scott Pruitt”.
The paper calls him “an aggressively bad choice, a poke in the eye to a long history of bipartisan cooperation on environmental issues, to a nation that has come to depend on the agency for healthy air and drinkable water, and to 195 countries that agreed in Paris last year to reduce their emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the belief that the United States would show the way.”
It calls on the Senate to “send his nomination to the dust bin” if it cares about the public good.
Joining this cabal of climate deniers is also Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) who is expected to be lead the Department of the Interior. She is an unfettered advocate of fossil fuels. Indeed, as one commentator remarks on Think Progress, this is turning out to be “the most anti-environmental administration—Republican or Democrat—in modern times”.
In all a recent analysis notes: “Trump has assembled a transition team in which at least nine senior members deny basic scientific understanding that the planet is warming due to the burning of carbon and other human activity.”
If this was not bad enough, we also have the news that, in a McCarthyite fashion, it looks like there is going to be a purge of scientists at the EPA who have been working on climate change.
According to a 74-point questionnaire, Trump’s Energy Department transition team has asked the agency for the names of employees and contractors who worked on Obama’s climate initiatives.
Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has called the questions “environmental McCarthyism” and “a witch hunt and a loyalty test all rolled into one.”
This week, the American Geophysical Union holds its annual conference in San Francisco , where the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund will hand out a booklet warning of the dangers to scientists working on climate and energy. Its executive director, Lauren Kurtz warns: “There is a lot of fear among scientists that they will become targets of people who are interested in science as politics, rather than progress”.
It is also becoming clearer that Trump is rewarding those who financed him.
As the Washington Post commented after the choice of restaurant executive Andrew Puzder to serve as his Labor secretary, Trump “has now tapped six big donors and fundraisers to serve in his administration, lining up an unprecedented concentration of wealthy backers for top posts.”
If the US electorate thought that by voting for Trump they would get a man of the people, they were wrong. If they thought this was a man who would drain the swamp of corporate lobbyists, they were dangerously mislead and misguided.
The swamp might get drained, but not in a way that they thought.
It is going to be tarmacked over, ripped of any life form, with a new drive-thru restaurant built on top where corporate America can cherry pick which regulations they want burnt and which lands they want drilled. Some will get very rich in the fossil fuel feeding frenzy, but not many.
In the meantime, America’s public lands and dwindling wild spaces will suffer. And all of us will be impacted by the resulting climate change.