Many climate change experts and citizens of the United States alike were concerned that the election of Donald Trump would mean climate change denial would become a greater issue for the country than it had ever been. Were their concerns valid? Here are 20 instances of President Trump's poor environmental policies that prove we have a right to be worried about the state of the environment:
20. On June 6, 2017, EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt claimed 50,000 jobs had been added to the coal mining industry, that in the month of May alone, 7,000 jobs in coal had been created. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number was closer to 1,400. According to their preliminary estimates, in the first four months of the Trump administration, there had been a gain of 1,000 jobs.
19. On September 4, 2017, Donald Trump appointed Oklahoma congressman Jim Bridenstine to lead NASA, despite the fact that Bridenstine has said repeatedly he does not believe humans cause climate change. “I would say that the climate is changing,” he told Aerospace America in a 2016 interview. “It has always changed. There were periods of time long before the internal combustion engine when the Earth was much warmer than it is today.” Members of NASA displaying this mindset is extra disheartening considering that among NASA’s many active projects, 27 missions are devoted to monitoring climate change.
18. The Trump administration denied endangered species protection for 25 highly imperiled species in October 2017. Among them were seven animals—the Pacific walrus, Florida Keys mole skink, Bicknell’s thrush, Kirtland’s snake, the northern Rockies population of fisher, Nevada springsnail, and Big Blue Spring Cave crayfish—whose habitats were gravely threatened by climate change.
17. In May 2017, The Environmental Protection Agency announced it would withdraw mining restrictions on Alaska’s headwaters, opening the door to a major mining facility in the area. This reversal came after an EPA study concluded the mine could decimate salmon populations in the area, a massive hit to native Alaskans whose culture depended heavily on salmon.
16. Trump has repeatedly misunderstood the difference between “weather” and “climate.” For example, he sent out a December 28, 2017 tweet stating that the U.S. could “use some good old global warming.” This uneducated claim followed an uptick in cold temperatures on the east coast during December 2017.
15. On February 23, 2018, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt justified his coal-friendly policies by referencing the Bible. In an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said, “The Biblical world view with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we’ve been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind.” In the same interview, he condemned the “weaponization” of the EPA and criticized the “environmental left” for “tell[ing] us that, though we have natural resources like natural gas and oil and coal, and though we can feed the world, we should keep those things in the ground, put up fences and be about prohibition.”
14. At the onset of hurricane season on the first of June 2017, leadership positions remained vacant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These agencies have the crucial purpose of monitoring weather patterns incoming for natural disasters and addressing natural disaster recovery, respectively.
13. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told a crowd at the Kentucky Farm Bureau that he would like to remove all tax credits given to wind and solar energy. “I’d let them stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources,” he told the spectators on October 9, 2017. The subsidies for renewable energy were meant to stimulate the development and use of new energy technologies. Thus far, the subsidies have already had a measurable impact. Berkeley National Laboratory found that oil and coal that we avoided burning between 2007 and 2015 equated to saving between 3,000 and 12,500 premature deaths in eight years. Beyond the health and environmental advantages of subsidizing new sources of energy, Pruitt also ignored the question of whether the oil and coal industries could “stand on their own” without federal support. The fossil fuel industries have received about $20 billion dollars annually in federal tax subsidies.
12. In October 2017, Donald Trump nominated a climate change skeptic to chair the Council on Environmental Quality, which advises the White House on environmental policy. Before her position on the council, Kathleen Hartnett White worked on the Texas Public Policy Foundation where she authored a paper that included this sentence: “Whether emitted from the human use of fossil fuels or as a natural (and necessary) gas in the atmosphere surrounding the earth, carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant.” She also wrote a 2014 paper that argued, “global warming alarmists are misleading the public about carbon dioxide emissions.”
11. On October 20, 2017, The Environmental Protection Agency deleted resources from its website that provided information to local governments on steps they could take to help address climate change. One example was an EPA site titled “Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments” being renamed “Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments,” with 15 mentions of “climate change” vanishing from the home page alone.
10. On August 21, 2018, The Trump administration announced plans to cut back Obama’s coal emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, calling them “overly prescriptive and burdensome.” The Trump plan increased the state authority to make decisions on coal emission standards, saying it “empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation.”
9. On April 5, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed budget cuts to a program that trained construction workers in removing toxic lead-based paints and educated the public on the dangers of lead exposure. This decision to possibly implement budget cuts came after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 discovery of blood levels above the danger threshold in 243,000 American children. Thirty-eight million American homes contained lead-based paints in need of removal, while only 14 states had programs to pick up the slack on lead removal after the federal budget cut.
8. Donald Trump shocked the world on June 1, 2017, when he officially withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement, claiming the global climate accord would “undermine our economy.” Signatories of this global pact promised to lower greenhouse gas emissions, in an international effort to keep global temperature below two degrees Celsius over the planet’s pre-industrial levels. Besides Nicaragua, which eventually signed, the United States and Syria were the only countries to reject the agreement.
7. The Environmental Protection Agency abruptly canceled October 2017 speaking engagements for three agency scientists who had been scheduled to present findings on the effects of climate change. An agency spokesperson offered no explanation for the cancellation.
6. Donald Trump ended funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System in April 2018. This technology was used to measure carbon dioxide and methane and verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords. The CMS was a $10-million-a-year research line that has been invaluable in helping NASA stitch together observations of sources and create high-resolution models of the planet's flows of carbon.
5. In a November 2, 2017 statement during the NBC television program Meet the Press, Energy Secretary Rick Perry seemed to suggest that fossil fuels could lower rates of sexual assault, or he at least attempted to make a strange analogy connecting fossil fuel usage and personal safety. Perry asserted that Africa lacked access to electric light, and said, “But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will on those types of acts. [sic]”
4. On February 16, 2017, the staff at the United States Department of Agriculture were given a list of “blacklisted” terms that the agency would no longer use in their scientific research. The memo instructed scientists to replace “climate change” with “weather extremes,” and “reduce greenhouse gases” with “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency.” Explaining the decision in an email, the Deputy Chief of Programs wrote, “It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch.”
3. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt said he did not believe carbon dioxide was a primary contributor to global warming. “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,” he told CNBC on March 9, 2017. Pruitt’s statement contradicted a library of scientific evidence, including a 2009 study by his own agency which concluded that carbon emissions were a leading cause of global warming.
2. In March 2018, the EPA sent an internal memo to staff describing a list of “approved talking points” downplaying the certainty and danger of climate change. These included statements like, “While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain in our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”