Trump's (Lack of) Climate Action

Looking at Trump's lack of action towards climate change.

The Administration's Policies

Of Trump’s many inscrutable policies, his climate stance is among the most mysterious. “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese", said Hillary Clinton in the presidential debate, a reference to when Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

“I did not. I do not say that. I do not say that," Trump responded. He later explained that his tweet was intended as a joke. But despite his contradictory statements, Trump has continuously reiterated his support for a few decisions. He wants to capitalize upon fossil fuels, renegotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, and cut Department of Energy spending, as well as defund climate science programs and fire climate science workers. His climate policy is whatever happens after the whirlwind of Trumpisms, a term I will use to describe Trump’s non-fact based statements, these that are so evidently self-contradictory that instead of exposing him as a liar, they expose the meaninglessness of truth in a grandly post-modern sense. And yet Trump, as a human being and as president-elect, has his own motivations, and once these have been located, perhaps the heart of this and his other policies might be comprehended. The only coherent trend for Trump’s actions so far, however, seems to be egomania and self-interest, behind which perhaps lingers a trace of magnanimity should his insecurities fall away enough for him to reveal some sense of interest in the world around him. And for for life on earth to continue as we know it, it is vitally important that he begin to pay attention to the world around him, especially the deteriorating natural world, if he intends to be president.

The Administration's Policies on Alternative Energy

Trump's policy suggestions for climate change action have been ambiguous but he has repeatedly called for more oil, more coal, and more natural gas. “President-elect Trump is creating a government of, by, and for the oil and gas industry. Never before have we seen such a concentration of extreme wealth and privilege in a single cabinet.” said the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ken Kimmell.

But Trump, in his usually contradictory fashion has also said that “still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change’” and “perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels.”

Trump's proposal to renegotiate the Paris Climate agreement is something that even the Chinese have criticised. Senator Kaine spoke to this: “Donald Trump says he wants to tear up that Paris accord that nearly 200 nations have committed to because he says climate change is a hoax.”

Recently Trump also has stated that he would cut all federal spending on the issue in order to save $100 billion over two terms in office according to the “New Deal for Black America.” Or in Trump's words, he'd like to “cancel all wasteful climate change spending.” But to cut $100 billion, the Department of Energy would have to cease all technology development and deployment, as well as climate science research, international development funding and funding to help U.S. communities deal with climate-related changes. Joe Romm describes the impracticality of this in his article for Climate Progress. It is odd also that this was included in a plan for black Americans considering that people of color are generally more concerned about climate change and more likely to be affected by it due to wealth disparities.

The Department of Energy rejected Trump’s request to name climate-change workers, who remain worried that some sort of witch hunt will commence for climate change believers. Despite Federal Protections against such firings, many working for the Department of Energy are concerned that they may be laid off or marginalized under the Trump administration given his threats to "drain the swamp".

Trump’s vice president is also bad news for environmentalists. Tim Kaine said, while on the campaign trail,“My opponent for vice president, Mike Pence from Indiana, says it’s a myth. I mean ... if you don’t accept science, where do I start with you? Where do I start with you? We’ve got to win this race, because this generation especially knows we’ve got to do the right thing in this country and around the world to battle against climate change.”

Cabinet Choices

Trump’s policies were also affected by his cabinet choices. Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming White House chief of staff, spoke recently, saying that Trump’s policy towards climate science is that “most of it is a bunch of bunk.” And Scott Pruitt, Trump's nomination for EPA head, doesn't believe in climate science. Meanwhile, Trump has selected Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Tillerson is chief executive officer of oil giant Exxon Mobil. ExxonMobil has historically funded climate change skeptics and is under investigation by New York and other states for misleading investors as to the true consequences that climate regulation might have for its business model. There is no contest between solar energy vs fossil fuels, and yet still the administration only moves backwards. Trump promised to push for the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, and yet ExxonMobil has softened its anti-climate policies by endorsing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and supporting carbon tax, so Tillerson’s attitude as Secretary of State remains unclear.

Ivanka's Diversions

Despite the anti-climate policies of many in the Trump cabinet, including Pence and Trump himself, Ivanka Trump has committed herself to the climate issue. Following her recent conversation with Al Gore, Gore said, “It's no secret that Ivanka Trump is very committed to having a climate policy that makes sense for our country and for our world and that was certainly evident in the conversation that I had with her. I appreciate the fact that she is very concerned about this."

"I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground. I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump. The bulk of the time was with the president-elect, Donald Trump. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that.” Whether Al Gore’s optimism is merited remains to be seen but it seems that the muddled policies of the Trump administration will have a largely negative impact on the environment at a time when we cannot afford to go backwards. Whether this confusion will be untangled in the coming months is anyone's guess, but the inaction of the president communicates a dangerous lack of concern for our environmental future.