Since the global scientific community formed a consensus on global warming in the late eighties, the American Government has been host to wildly varying views on the subject, and several distinct plans of action, but the Trump administration is the first that has so blatantly fought against the counsel of an overwhelming majority of climate scientists. With the recent developments of the Coronavirus and subsequent police brutality protests, it can be easy to forget about the government’s current policy on climate change, and while those issues are serious and deserve attention, they don’t mandate that we forget about longer term problems. The Trump administration continues to hold a position in direct conflict with the overwhelming majority of climate studies, and that stance should inform our votes in the upcoming presidential election.
The Current Administration is Composed of Climate Change Deniers
Though not all speak on their beliefs openly, many of the advisers and bureaucrats that Donald Trump has surrounded himself with are at the very least unwilling to acknowledge the threat that climate change poses. Since he assumed his office, Trump’s staff have removed mentions of climate change from government websites, and removed rising temperatures from a list of threats on the national security strategy. White House officials have repeatedly made remarks dismissing climate science, referring to carbon dioxide pollution as harmless “plant food,” and calling climate scientists and citizens concerned with climate change “climate alarmists.”
Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration’s policy mirrors the views of its members. Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has worked to erode the measures the Obama administration put in place in an attempt to avoid disaster in the future. Whether this decision was precipitated by personal beliefs or simply because the current administration regards the previous one as its enemy, these policy changes will have a tangible effect on emissions of carbon dioxide in the United States.
The Obama administration put measures in place to limit emissions by mobile sources of carbon dioxide, mostly made up of the transportation industry. The restrictions placed on light vehicles, which account for most of the pollution in the transportation sector, have already been revoked. The previous administration’s plan for stationary sources of pollution, the Clean Power Plan, was never put into effect, and there’s no doubt that this administration will avoid it like the plague.
The Paris Climate Agreement
One of the Trump administration’s most controversial moves has been to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, which, though it consisted only of voluntary goals, promised to move the international community toward higher standards for pollution. Luckily, the immediate effects of that decision have been minimal, because the process of leaving the agreement won’t actually be completed until after the 2020 presidential election. Even more fortunate is the fact that, should the winner of said election choose to re-enter the agreement, it could be accomplished within 30 days of the request.
That isn’t to say that the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement was free of consequences. It would be hard to believe that it had no effect on the other nations at the table in Paris, and some of those that weren’t. Many of the world’s smaller nations look to the United States as an example from which to judge global political trends, so the Trump administration’s refusal to accept the facts as they relate to climate change could inspire other regimes to adopt similar stances. We can only hope that our prominence on the world stage has been so compromised already that our neighbors have the good sense not to take us seriously.
What the Future Holds
Certainly, the results of the 2020 presidential election will decide US climate policy for the next four years, but to say that the fate of the world hangs on it would be an exaggeration. The federal government does set the tone for national action on climate change, and this administration has set a dark one, but each state has the power to set and meet its own emission goals. Many are doing so already. As renewable energy becomes profitable as well as practical, and as the idea of climate change and the experience of its effects settles more comfortably into the popular psyche, things will get better, even if our examples in the White House remain poor.