Trump ignores environmental issues
President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team have spent the last few days strategizing for his four upcoming years in the Oval Office, despite massive protests across the country. Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank, has been chosen as Trump’s leading figure in transitioning the Environmental Protection Agency.
In an article for Forbes Magazine, Ebell claimed that climate change is not necessarily caused by humans and may even be beneficial. This is a direct contradiction of geoscientists’ findings. The National Academy of Sciences has long acknowledged that climate change is caused by humans and has the potential to create cataclysmic destruction, especially in the developing world.
Ebell is perhaps most notable for his denouncement of Pope Francis, following a call from the Vatican for the world to address the destruction of the environment. Ebell called this address “theologically suspect,” arguing that it was largely “leftist drivel.”
Trump is no stranger to denying scientific consensus himself, taking to Twitter on Election Day in 2012 and making the ludicrous argument that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In Trump’s 2015 book, Crippled America, he writes that clean energy is “an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.” Beyond the topic of climate change, Trump is also notorious for being an “anti-vaxxer,” making the claim on Twitter in 2014 that vaccines cause autism in children.
Trump and Ebell’s outright denial of science has informed the potential policies of the upcoming Trump administration. Trump has promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a climate change accord of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that only went into effect four days before Election Day.
Under the Paris Agreement, almost 200 parties, including China, the European Union, India and the United States, pledged to keep the global temperature rise of the 21st century between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, with the long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels. The Paris Agreement even drew the support of oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, which released a statement calling the accord “an important step forward by world governments in addressing the serious risks of climate change.”
Under the Paris Agreement, there is a four-year period before any of the 109 ratifying parties can withdraw. A member of Trump’s transition team anonymously told Reuters that Trump is searching for a means of bypassing the four-year withdrawal period. Trump’s attempt to expeditiously withdraw from the Paris Agreement undermines the unity that the accord succeeded in building after a year of planning.
In addition to Trump’s plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, his proposal for his first 100 days in office includes a promise to “lift the restrictions on the production of...shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal,” all of which are harmful to the atmosphere. Even burning clean coal, despite its name, emits considerable quantities of greenhouse gases.
Trump also pledged to “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.”
The Keystone Pipeline is already complete and functional, but its extension, the Keystone XL Pipeline, has been disputed since its proposal. Once completed, the Pipeline could potentially carry 830,000 gallons of oil from Alberta to Nebraska, making fossil fuels more immediately available and decreasing U.S. reliance on the Middle Eastern oil market.
Trump and the Republican Party have touted the project as a creator of jobs on a massive scale. Such a project has been estimated to generate 42,000 jobs. However, following the pipeline’s two-year construction period, only 35 of those jobs will remain. In addition to damaging the ecosystems that it crosses, the pipeline would double oil production in Canada by 2030. Trump’s kindling of fossil fuels goes directly against the global effort to curb greenhouse gas emission.
The International Renewable Energy Agency reported a 5 percent increase in worldwide employment in the renewable energy sector from 2014 to 2015, with over 8 million people employed. Even China, the nation that Trump pledges to gain an advantage over, plans on tripling its solar power capacity by 2020. Renewable energy promises to be an economically fruitful solution to the potential dangers that climate change presents and, unless we see radical change in Trump’s plans, the United States will get left far behind.