Friend or enemy – which side of the environmental spectrum is US President Donald Trump part of?
Donald Trump winning the US presidency sent shock waves not only to the US population – but also to the entire world. Just imagine, after President Trump won, rallies and protests were held by some of the American people. As for the international community, many are surprised and left unsure on how or what kind of ripple effect this would have in the future of the country and of the entire world (after all, US is viewed by many as the leader of the free world).
On top of all the uncertainties, energy enthusiasts and environmentalists are also left guessing if the elected president is pro or against climate change. The wheels of a cleaner and greener future have already been turned – and quite frankly, has gone a long way with regards to combating climate change. There's the Paris Accord, the strong momentum and rapid growth of renewables, increased awareness for the clean and green movement, etc...
Unfortunately, Trump winning the presidency appears to have thrown a monkey wrench to the grand design of things – the plan for a cleaner and better environment of the future. In fact, while still at his presidential campaign, Trump has already been showing signs of what appears to be his motives – and now that he has won the presidency, some of his actions seems to cemented those speculations.
In this post, one will see what moves and / or decisions made by the current US president that makes him appear to be in the opposite side of battling climate change.
Withdrawal from the Paris Accord
Let us start with the most recent action done by President Trump – his announcement that the US will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. For readers who are not familiar with this particular agreement, more information can be found on my other post:
However, a brief but informative summary is provided below for your convenience.
1. The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement is known by different names – some of the common terminologies include The Paris Climate Agreement, Accord de Paris (in French), or quite simply the Paris Climate Accord.
Basically, the accord was the agreed response of all 196 representations initially negotiated during the popular COP21. The parties agreed that climate change should be curbed, reduced, and mitigated on a global scale (this makes sense since the parties involved are from different governments of different countries). However, the agreement will only take effect when 55 nations with a cumulative greenhouse output of 55% will join the agreement.
On the other hand, COP21 is the 21st annual Conference of the Parties for the 1992 global environmental treaty. COP21 was held last 2015 (November to Decembet) in Paris France. The conference was attended not only by governments but by prominent figures as well as well known companies (through representatives).
Speaking of the environmental treaty mentioned above, it was held last 1992 at Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). The treaty is officially called as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC for short.
As the name implies, the convention's purpose is to control the greenhouse gas emitted in the atmosphere since it is apparently influencing (in a major way) the natural flow of the climate system. UNFCCC was held in 1992 which follows that as early as that time, man is made aware of the looming threat of man-made climate change.
Since its ratification, members of the UNFCCC have met every year which has come to be known as the Conference of the Parties (COP).
Announcing the Withdrawal
Now that we have a better view of the many terminology treaties, let us now go back to the main aspect of this section – the decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
For those who have not seen Trump's announcement (made at the Rose Garden last June 1, 2017), below is a YouTube clip of it.
(Video Credits: Globalization News via YouTube.com)
If you have seen the entire video then you will have a better glimpse of the reasoning behind the US president's decision to withdraw.
As stated by Trump, he seemingly views that the Paris Accord is harmful to the economy of the country as it will cost millions of American jobs and will result to lost of GDP in the vicinity of trillions. Apart from this, it has been reported that Trump will also be putting an end to one of the legacies set up by his predecessor (Barack Obama) – and that is dismantling the effectivity of the carbon reduction targets.
Response and Reactions
Needless to say, the move made by Donald Trump has garnered mostly negative reactions (while some led to extreme responses). For instance, some position holders of the presidential advisory boards have vacated their position. Naturally, Trump's environment decision did not also sit well with the international community. Many criticized the decision and at the same time they re-affirmed their support for the Paris Accord.
Locally, since many Americans appear to be in favor of the Paris Climate Change Agreement – this obviously follow that many citizens slammed their President's decision to withdraw from the agreement. In fact, because of Trump's environment impacting announcement, a US Climate Alliance was formed and founded by the governors of Washington, New York, and California. Aside from the three founding states, the governors of the following states have also shown their intentions of joining the alliance:
• Puerto Rico
• Rhode Island
A whopping budget cut of 31%
At this point, it might be safe to assume that US President Donald Trump is not a champion or advocate of Renewables and is particularly critical of EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency) Clean Power Plan which is a brainchild from the previous administration (former US president Barack Obama). Because of this, on March of this year, the present administration exclaimed that the EPA budget for next year will be slashed by 31 percent. A budget trim of this magnitude might lead to a workforce termination of about 19% (a percentage in this vicinity is roughly equivalent to the removal of 3,2000 personnel).
For obvious reasons, Trump's budget cut was newsworthy and the clip below is a clip from CBS News found on YouTube regarding the budget cut:
(Video Credits: CBS News via YouTube.com)
Fortunately, the announcement did not come to past as last month, the US congress only approved a budget cut of one percent for EPA's fiscal year of 2017 to 2018. On top of this, no staff will be laid off nor program be decommissioned. Nonetheless, one must not still be complacent as this might change for succeeding years.
Another move made by Trump that seems to be detrimental for the environment comes in the form of his appointees. One must remember, that even before his campaign, Trump is popularly known to be a climate change skeptic – and at one point, believes that global warming is an environmental hoax from the Chinese government.
Although research indicates that Trump already stated the latter as a joke, it seems that his skepticism about climate change remains unfazed – especially with the appointees he has assigned. As discussed below, one will see and understand that the people he appointed to some key government positions are not exactly what one will consider as a friend of the environment.
Let us first start with Ryan Zinke. For those who are not familiar with Mr. Zinke, he was from the state of Montana and was quite athletic in his youth. Zinke was actually a football scholar in the University of Oregon and has earned a degree in Biology with masteral in leadership.
Once school ended, he went on to becoming a part of the elite US Navy Seal for more than twenty years and retiring with commander class. After his military career ended, his political career started as he was elected in the senate of the state of Montana. It is also worth noting that Zinke is the first ever Navy Seal to be appointed a spot in the US House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, even with the above mentioned colorful career, it appears that Zinke is not a clean and green renewable advocate as he opposed a number of environmental regulations. Zinke's view is actually quite interesting. A few years ago, it was reported that he wrote a letter to then President Obama about the dangers of climate change if not acted upon. However, he is a known supporter of using coal production for generating electricity and is even against environmentalits when it comes to drilling gas and oil extraction.
Next we have is Rex Tillerson. Tillerson used to be the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Supermajor oil company ExxonMobil. The term supermajor is use to describe an oil company that is among the largest in the world – and guess what, ExxonMobil is considered as the largest among the supermajor oil companies and is also a known denier that fossil fuel burning contributes to global warming.
Nowadays, Tillerson is no longer the CEO of ExxonMobil because he was appointed as the US Secretary of State by Donald Trump. Needless to say, the Secretary of State is a high ranking position in the US government. In a way, even though Tillerson is no longer a senior level executive of ExxonMobil, he is now a senior official of the US government.
Remember the EPA mentioned earlier – the agency that has the Clean Power Plan and is tasked to safeguard the environment? Guess who is its current administrator?
Scott Pruitt was appointed by Donald Trump as EPA administrator last year and was confirmed by the Senate on Feb 2017. Pruitt shares many of the same environment views with the two politicians above. In a nutshell, Pruitt is also a non-believer of any scientific consensus regarding climate change. In fact, his environment view directly contradicts with that of the agency. Basically, EPA’s public stance (for the longest time which is now modified to align with its new administrator) states that CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is the greenhouse gas that is the primary contributor of climate change.
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
Lastly, we have Rick Perry – a former governor of Texas who is now the Secretary of Energy as appointed by Donald Trump. Based on various reports, Perry seems to want to revive the US coal industry. Of course, we all know that coal mining is bad for the environment – actually, it is detrimental for the environment. This is the reason why the former administration (and the rest of the members of the Paris Accord) wanted to shift away from coal as much as possible.
The last eight years saw policymaking driven by political agendas. The previous leader said that they were for American energy independence and domestic energy development; they just didn’t want to drill for it, mine it, transport it or sell it. Exploration on federal lands and waters decreased, permits for vital projects...were left to wither on the vine. Those days are over.
Good or Bad for the Environment?
2015 Global Temperature Anomalies
We are almost at the end of this post. In this closing section, let me just say that I am passionate about climate change as taking care of the environment and ensuring a clean and safe future should be everyone's concern.
President Trump must have his own underlying reasons for doing the things that he has done and making the decisions that he has made. After all, one does not become the US president out of sheer luck or by not having in-depth knowledge of things. Let's just hope that whatever the actions or decisions made by Trump, no matter how bleak or questionable it may be, it will still lead to a better, safer, and cleaner environment that would be enjoyed by the current and future generation.
Again, safe guarding the environment should be everyone's concern. Ensuring a safe and clean future is the responsibility of each one. If you want to know or is interested on how you can help, then be sure to check out the Querlo chat below.
Remember: Be Aware, Do Your Part, and Save the Environment