Donald Trump was a Climate Change Denier in 2015 at a campaign rally in South Carolina when he stressed, “A lot of it is a hoax. It’s a hoax invented by the Chinese.” After the election, in an interview with The New York Times, he appeared to modify his position on climate change, saying, “I have an open mind to it.” Trump did meet with Al Gore at Trump Tower before the inauguration, as did his daughter Ivanka. If that raised hopes, they were dashed when he appointed Scott Pruitt as Secretary of The Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt spoke on March 9, 2017 on CNBC on carbon dioxide and the environment, “No, I would not agree that it’s a contributor to the global warming that we see.”
On March 28 , Donald Trump signed an executive order to nullify President Barack Obama’s climate change efforts to reduce carbon dioxide pollution that was warming the planet. Trump was surrounded in the Oval Office by coal miners and company executives. As he held up the document, he boasted to the miners, “C’mon fellas. You know what this is? You’re going back to work.” At the ceremony, Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency ( E.P.A. ) to start the long legal process of dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The aim of the plan was to close hundreds of coal–fired power plants , freeze construction of new plants and replace them with huge new wind and solar farms.
There was underlying irony in the theatrical rollout at the White House. The coal industry is in irreversible decline due to cheaper natural gas and the tripling since 2008 of cleaner energy sources like wind and solar. Jobs will not be available in the coal mines that are slated to close. Jobs are growing in the allied industries of wind and solar energy. The economy is in the midst of major industrial changes in different sections of the country. Some critics questioned if Trump knew the facts about these changes and trends. He has a history of not wanting to study important daily briefs, government documents and policies. He has said he gets the news from watching TV, and often sends early morning tweets based on the latest Fox News story before talking with his advisers.
Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, was the head of Breitbart News when it published, “Climate Change: The Greatest Ever Conspiracy Against The Taxpayer.” He is urging Trump to withdraw the United States from the April, 2016 Paris Agreement that committed 174 nations and the European Union to take action against carbon dioxide pollution. The goal set for the United States, second only to China, the greatest polluter, is to reduce America’s green house gases by more than one quarter below 2005 levels by 2025. The Paris Agreement was hailed as a major diplomatic achievement setting targets around the globe with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry leading the effort over long months of difficult complex negotiations.
China apparently, listened carefully to Trump’s climate change denial during his campaign. After his inauguration, it became clear that China would act to take the lead from the United States. In January, China’s president, Xi Jinping said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that the Paris Agreement had been “hard won” and should remain in force. “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations,” he said. On March 29, Global Times, the Chinese state-run newspaper ran an editorial chastising the Trump administration for “brazenly shirking its responsibility on climate change.” After years of the Obama administration urging and pleading with China to limit the use of fossil fuels to slow the warming of the planet, Trump’s words and executive order have given China the chance to become the world leader on Climate Change.
On March 31, Michael Bloomberg, mega-financier and former mayor of New York City wrote a stunning rebuke to Trump’s rollback of environmental protections in The New York Times. In “Climate Progress, Without Trump”, Bloomberg explained what has already happened to energy markets in the country and stressed the role that cities, states, businesses and consumers are playing in driving down carbon dioxide emissions. Here are some of the main encouraging facts and trends: More than 250 coal plants, almost half the total number in the U.S. have announced they will close or switch to cleaner fuel. After 1980’s, coal mining began dynamiting the tops off mountains instead of men digging with picks and axes underground. Jobs continued to decline when a decade ago, fracking was introduced , leading to cheaper natural gas for energy.
A decade ago, coal was the source of half of American electricity production; today it is down to one third. The cost of wind power has dropped to $20 dollars per megawatt compared to more than $30 per megawatt for electricity from many coal plants.
Consumers are demanding energy from sources that don’t poison their air and water. The ongoing Flint crisis raised the public’s knowledge and concern throughout the country. They learned what lead in polluted water and air could do to the health of their children. Cities, where two thirds of the country’s emissions occur, are taking the lead against climate change. More than 130 American cities have joined the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. They are expanding mass transit, increasing energy efficiency of their buildings, creating bike sharing programs, planting trees and reviving parks. Major corporations like Walmart and Apple that had signed a pledge in 2015 to reduce their emissions, have reaffirmed their commitments . Anheuser-Busch announced their aim to reach 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. Bloomberg industries has the same goal. Federal policies on vehicle emissions have been in effect in automobile companies in many states. Enacted by President Obama, after he saved the auto industry, they have become a part of retooling nationwide. It is very doubtful if companies will retool their plants once more to meet any projected changes from Donald Trump’s executive order.
Michael Bloomberg concluded his valuable article with strong words: “I wish President Trump and his administration would recognize the health, economic and environmental benefits of tackling climate change. But their failure to do so is not reason to be despondent. Thanks to forces beyond the Washington Beltway that have reached a critical mass, we should be more optimistic than ever about our ability to lead – and win—the fight against climate change.”
Joyce S. Anderson