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Op-Ed: Trump’s scorn of global warming kills our chance to stay below 2C

When President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, one of the very first things on his agenda was energy dominance for the United States, and to that end, it turned into a “no-holds-barred” agenda in how his administration succeeded in attaining that dominance.

And over the succeeding three years Trump has been in office, he has carefully selected people to lead his cabinets that agreed with his politics and disdain for science. In particular, his choices for heads of the Interior Department, and Environmental Protection Agency come to mind.

These appointments have led to an aggressive dismantling of environmental policy and an attempted expansion of the fossil fuel industry. At the same time, even though the coal industry was on its last leg, he promised out-of-work coal miners he would bring coal back to all its glory – something he has not succeeded in doing.

According to Bloomberg, at least six times since Trump has taken office, the Department of the Interior has been rebuked by the courts for selling drilling rights or advancing oil projects without adequately considering the consequences of global warming. These courtroom defeats have jeopardized over one million acres of oil development plans.

Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain  looking south toward the Brooks Rang...

Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, looking south toward the Brooks Range mountains.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

“Judges all over the country are saying you can’t ignore climate when you’re leasing fossil fuels,” said Pat Gallagher, director of the Sierra Club’s environmental law program. “The judges aren’t going to ignore climate even if Trump wants to.”

And while Trump has been using his dislike of former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations – rescinding or outright dismissing them in order to get his way, today, he has a new action plan. Last week, Trump signed an executive order allowing federal agencies to speed up large infrastructure projects by sidestepping key environmental protections – citing the urgency of economic recovery for the country after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Trump Effect
While the White House has clearly lost many court battles in trying to increase the production of oil and gas on federal lands, Trump has also relegated climate change to a mere footnote in federal regulations. Trump’s decision to step back from international climate action pushes any prospect of hitting global emissions targets to “near-zero”, according to a new analysis.

Dakota Access Pipeline being built in Iowa

Dakota Access Pipeline being built in Iowa
Carl Wycoff (CC BY 2.0)

The research, published in the June 2020 issue of Environmental Science and Policy, suggests two presidential terms of US inaction on climate change would create ripple effects across other nations, labeled the “Trump Effect.”

In other words, this means that with a climate skeptic in the White House, other countries will have to take up the reins in leadership and pick up the slack to stay within the 2C limit.

Lead author Dr. Håkon Sælen from the Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Norway says they are the first team to investigate the knock-on effects it could have on the “dynamic cooperation process envisioned by Paris.” And while their conclusions are obvious, as long as Trump remains in office, there is still a warning somewhere within the study.

As I wrote in Digital Journal on June 5, “Once the planet sails past the 2°C warming limit set out in the Paris climate agreement in 2015, we will be entering uncharted territory. So we really need to take global warming seriously and try to preserve what we are familiar with, rather than risk what may be waiting in a very novel climate ahead.”

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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