President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at undoing many of the Obama administration’s policies to reduce pollution and address climate change. It could take years — and the ability to turn back court challenges expected from environmental groups — to actually change U.S. laws. So the most significant and immediate impact of Trump’s order is the message it sends to the rest of the world: that the United States doesn’t care about climate change and its impacts.
This is a horrifying message to send to the world and to American citizens who already are dealing with the consequences of a warming planet.
The Trump administration’s climate denial and lack of support for climate monitoring and research worry Maine’s lobstermen. While the fishing industry remains lucrative in Maine, the lobster fishery in southern New England and New York has collapsed, which scientists attribute to warming waters in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s our hope the Main lobster fishery isn’t next, but surface water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are rising 99 percent faster than sea surface temperatures on the rest of the planet.
“As someone who depends on a clean environment to make a living, I’m worried we are trading the long-term health of our planet for short-term economic gains,” David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, wrote in a March 29 BDN column.
Climate changes rules and actions aren’t just about ensuring people can make a living, they also ensure that people live. The Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era rules to regulate the emissions of ozone and particulate matter from power plants, was expected to prevent 15,000 heart attacks, 400,000 asthma attacks and 34,000 premature deaths, including 60 in Maine, in the eastern U.S. each year. Stopping the plan is one aspect of Trump’s executive order.
Instead, Trump’s actions are all about boosting the country’s fossil fuel industry regardless of its environmental impacts.
But the president’s promises are built on lies. For example, he told the coal miners crowded around him as he signed the executive order that he would put them back to work. He won’t.
Demand for and production of coal have been declining in the U.S. for years because of low prices for natural gas and the declining price of solar and wind energy. Numerous coal-fired power plants have closed and plans for new coal plants and upgrades to existing ones have been shelved over the past decade. Only a handful of new coal-fired plants are on the drawing board.
And, coal mines are increasingly mechanized, lessening the need for coal miners.
While Trump touts his action as reducing regulations so the economy can grow, many U.S. corporations have and will continue to invest in cleaner energy sources and production methods that reduce emissions and waste. Even after the president’s executive order, many of the country’s top companies said they would stick with their plans to shrink their environmental footprint.
“This work is embedded in our business,” Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner told Bloomberg. It’s “good for the business, our shareholders and customers; if ultimately we are able to positively impact the environment in the process, that’s a win too.”
Before the 2015 global climate negotiations in Paris, Wal-Mart was one of 81 companies that promised to reduce emissions. Last year, the company raised its target and pledged to get half its power from renewable sources by 2025.
Even the U.S. military, which would get more money in Trump’s budget plan while Environmental Protection Agency funding would be cut by nearly a third, disagrees with the president about climate change. “[It] is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water,” the Department of Defense said in a 2015 report to the U.S. Senate. “These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”
Trump’s gutting of climate change policies is uninformed, unnecessary and dangerous.