Donald Trump swung another wrecking ball into the global effort to tackle climate change yesterday, when his administration reversed an Obama-era rule that tightened emissions on the coal industry and opened up more land to oil and gas drilling.
The move comes in the middle of the UN climate negotiations and comes just days after a US government report by 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies, warned that urgent action is needed to tackle the issue and amidst almost daily scientific warnings of our climate crisis.
Yesterday, Andrew Wheeler, the acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and a former coal industry lobbyist himself, said “We are rescinding unfair burdens on America’s energy providers and leveling the playing field so that new energy technologies can be part of America’s future.”
As CNN reported: “The rule change would lift restrictions on coal emissions that effectively limited the construction of new plants”, such as the requirement to have carbon, capture and storage technology fitted.
It is not surprising that the move was roundly condemned. Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said “Trump’s proposal is an act of flailing, die-hard climate denial.”
David Doniger, a climate director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, added the move “will be judged harshly by future generations”. Fifteen health and medical groups also opposed the EPA’s announcement.
Furthermore, this was not the only move by Trump to rip up Obama regulations. The deniers of the Trump Administration also started the move to roll back restrictions on oil and gas drilling on millions of acres of land, which Obama declared to be off-limits to protect the greater sage grouse.
Despite the change to the coal plant rules, as the Guardian reports, and despite Denier Donald’s best efforts, he can’t compete with the market and “companies in the US are not building plants that burn coal because burning natural gas is cheaper and creates less pollution.”
The move by the Trump administration is the exact opposite of what the science demands and also the America people now believe and want.
Even since the new Government report on climate change was published (and subsequently dismissed by Trump) we have had new warnings that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet has gone into “overdrive”. The lead scientist on a new scientific paper released this week, Dr Luke Trusel, said: “As a result, Greenland melt is adding to sea level more than any time during the last three-and-a-half centuries, if not thousands of years.”
We have also heard about other research published on Wednesday that greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at the rate of a “speeding freight train”. Rob Jackson, a Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford University and author of this paper said: “We’ve seen oil use go up five years in a row. That’s really surprising.”
Also a new poll by Politico/Morning Consult has found that two-thirds of voters say they are very or somewhat concerned about federal report on climate change, which Trump dismissed. Furthermore, 58% of people think scientists are right, and Donald Trump is wrong, that human activity is the main cause of climate change. Only 4% of U.S. voters seem to be similar to Donald Trump and argue that climate change isn’t happening at all.
The breakdown is interesting on party lines: Some 78% of Democrats say humans are the cause of climate change, compared to only 34% of Republicans.
What is going on then with Trump and the Republican party? As Paul Krugman wrote recently in the New York Times:
“If we fail to meet the challenge of climate change, with catastrophic results — which seems all too likely — it won’t be the result of an innocent failure to understand what was at stake. It will, instead, be a disaster brought on by corruption, willful ignorance, conspiracy theorizing and intimidation.”
He added: “Donald Trump isn’t an aberration, he’s the culmination of where his party has been going for years. You could say that Trumpism is just the application of the depravity of climate denial to every aspect of politics. And there’s no end to the depravity in sight.”