Egregious Act: Donald Trump’s Disdain for Planet Earth
On December 6, 2009, Trump signed a letter to President Barack Obama calling for a global climate deal. This New York Times letter, signed by dozens of business leaders stated in part that “If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” (Note 1) Since then, Trump has repeatedly stated and acted otherwise in his U.S and global approach towards environmental change, which we describe below. Lost in Trump’s rhetoric is that climate change goes way beyond global warming effects in the U.S. According to NASA, “Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.” (Note 11)
A very concerning thought: On October 17, 2018 when an AP reporter noted that scientists are warning that climate change could soon become irreversible, Trump responded, “I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture.” (Note 1). In other words, he is thinking, ‘since I know we have scientists on both sides of these issues, I can be guided by my natural instinct towards science to make the correct decision. I am free to ignore the majority of scientists’ points of view.’ This from a person who thinks his kidneys are in his heart (Note 7), and whose former fixer, Michael Cohen, told the House Oversight Committee, “I’m talking about a man who declares himself brilliant, but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.”(Note 16)
We have seen Trump’s complete disregard of science on display in his mismanaging of the U.S. pandemic, resulting in over 150,000 dead by the end of July 2020.
“It’s a Hoax”
Various Trump comments follow, with common themes. First he equates climate change with global warming, then challenges the concept of global warming in the winter, when yes, it still gets cold. He continually says that global warming initiatives are bad for business, and at one point blamed the Chinese for creating this environmental movement.
The dates and information below are primarily from a Mother Jones December 2016 article. (Note 1)
February 14, 2010: Trump tells an audience at one of his golf clubs, “global warming…China and other countries couldn’t care less. It would make us totally noncompetitive in the manufacturing world, and China, Japan and India are laughing at America’s stupidity.” (Note 1)
November 6, 2012: Trump tweets: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” (Note 1)
December 6, 2013: Trump declares global warming a “hoax,” tweeting: “Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!”
January 6, 2014: Trump went on Fox News to discuss a severe cold snap that set records across the country. “This winter is brutal,” said Trump, adding that climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by “scientists [who] are having a lot of fun.” Throughout January Trump continues to tweet that climate change is a hoax.
September 21, 2015: During the GOP primary race, Trump kept up his climate denial. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show he said: “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. “
January 24, 2016: Three years later, Trump now says on Fox News his claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax was a “joke”. Trump went further on September 26, 2016 during the first debate. When Hillary Clinton noted that Trump “thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese,” in response, Trump simply lied. “I did not, I did not,” he said. “I did not say that.”
November 27, 2016: Following Trump’s confusing New York Times interview, incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus explained on Fox. “But (Trump) has his default (climate change) position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” (Note 1)
Trump Assault on the U.S. Environment
Despite saying on December 6, 2013, “We should be focused on magnificently clean and healthy air and not distracted by the expensive hoax that is global warming!”, his actions with respect to U.S. air and other pollution in the U.S. indicate the opposite. In a May 26, 2016 major speech on energy policy, Trump said that during his first 100 days in office, he would “rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions including” his landmark climate regulations. On September 26, 2016 (Note 1), word leaked that, if elected, he would choose Myron Ebell (of the Competitive Enterprise Institute) to lead his transition efforts at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not surprising, Ebell had a long history of opposing efforts to fight climate change. Then on December 7, 2016, Trump selected Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan. He also claimed that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” (Sounds like Trump!)
Here are some of the actions taken shortly after Trump was sworn in as president:
- The White House website’s climate page was replaced by Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” (Note 1),
A 2017 budget proposal was released that would wipe out 31% of the EPA’s funding (Note 2)The proposed EPA budget was less than one-third of the latest $18 billion estimated cost of the abbreviated border wall.
- An executive order was signed gutting many of Obama’s climate policies, including the Clean Power Plan.
Then on November 26, 2018 the Trump administration attempted to bury a federal report that warned of the devastating economic consequences of climate change by releasing it on the Friday after Thanksgiving. When journalists asked him about the report, the president said, “No, no, I don’t believe it.” (Note 1)
A June 2019 New York Times Article (Note 4) describes 83 environmental rules and regulations the Trump Administration has reversed, or is currently working to rollback, in areas such as:
- Air pollution
- Use of toxic substances on crops
- Water pollution
- Animal protection, and
- Oil drilling
Ten selected actions follow, with (numbers) referencing the New York Times article location where further details can be found:
- Loosened a Clinton-era rule designed to limit toxic emissions from major industrial polluters. (3)
- Stopped enforcing a 2015 rule that prohibited the use of hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases, in air-conditioners and refrigerators used in our homes. (4)
- Lifted a summertime ban on the use of E15, a gasoline blend made up of 15 percent ethanol. (Burning gasoline with a higher concentration of ethanol in hot conditions increases air pollution e.g. smog.) (10)
- Rescinded water pollution regulations for oil fracking on federal and Indian lands. This is currently being challenged by the State of California. (24)
- Proposed opening most of America’s coastal waters to offshore oil and gas drilling (33)
- Revoked Obama-era flood standards for federal infrastructure projects, like roads and bridges. The standards required the government to account for sea-level rise and other expected climate change effects. (41)
- Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands. (55).
- Proposed stripping key provisions from the Endangered Species Act (62).
- Narrowed the scope of a 2016 law mandating safety assessments for potentially toxic chemicals, like dry-cleaning solvents and paint strippers. The EPA will focus on direct exposure, and exclude air, water and ground contamination. (64)
- Delayed by two years an EPA rule regulating limits on toxic discharge, which can include mercury from power plants into public waterways. (74)
The article also noted 10 rule changes of the Trump Administration that were reinstated, often following lawsuits and other legal challenges.
SOME FINAL NOTES:
According to a recent report by NYU’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, Trump’s environmental rollbacks could lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions and result in thousands more deaths every year from poor air quality. (Note 5) Higher temperatures that dry out vegetation and strengthening winds are climate change results we hear on the news daily. Not surprisingly, six of the 10 most destructive California wildfires fires on record have been in the past three years. (Note 12)
Additionally, four of the last eight years in Alaska were the warmest on record for that state (Note 11). Mount Hunter, in Denali National Park in Alaska, is having 60 times more snowmelt than it had 150 years ago. The glaciers provide water to many people, and some people are at risk of losing their supply of freshwater. (Note 12) On July 1, 2019, the Associated Press reported sea surface temperatures in the last week in June in Northern Alaska were as high as nine degrees F above the 1981-2010 average, reaching into the low 60s. The Washington Post reported Alaska’s summer has been ‘off the charts’. (Note 17) Hunters have been reporting large numbers of dead seals off of Alaska’s western and northern coasts, according to a Fairbank’s Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy spokesperson.
On August 29,2019, the Trump Administration laid out their plan to cut back on the regulation of methane gas, a major contributor to climate change. The New York Times article pointed out even major energy companies have spoken out against this proposed change (Note 19)
On September 4, 2019, after earlier inaccurately stating Dorian was expected to hit Alabama, DT shows a weather map–he doctored with a sharpie– at a White House press conference to support his statement (Note 21). Alabama’s National Weather Service had to publicly announce Dorian would not hit Alabama as a result of DT’s statement (Note 22). DT’s falsifying a weather forecast is also illegal (Note 22).
On October 17, 2019, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published a collection of papers describing the financial risks from climate change. One of the risks is that home values could fall significantly. (Note 24)
On November 18,2019, the General Accounting Office reported over 60% of Superfund contamination sites were vulnerable to climate change. Broken down, that includes 783 Superfund sites at greater risk of flooding under climate change, 234 Superfund sites at high or very high risk from wildfires, and 187 sites vulnerable to storm surge from any Category 4 or 5 hurricane (Note 25)
Trump Assault on the Global Environment
Similarly, Europe’s five hottest summers in the past 500 years have all been in the past 15 years (Note 13). In late July 2019, there were record breaking temperatures throughout Europe, including in London (record broken by 2 °F) and Paris (record broken by 4 °F). See the discussion of the July heat wave and its effects in Europe here.
Many have heard of the sea of plastic in the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Patch has many harmful consequences, especially to marine life (Note 14). Discarded fishing gear in the Patch often trap seals and other marine mammals. The trash is often mistaken for food and when fish and other sea animals consume plastic instead of food, they starve to death or have their organs ruptured by the plastic. A University of Hawaii at Manoa study found that as plastics degrade in sunlight, they emit greenhouse gasses—particularly methane and ethylene.
Microplastics found in fish could be creating a long-term health hazard for humans who consume fish as well. (Note 15) Because plastic can absorb chemicals from its surroundings, it is possible that the harmful chemicals could be released into people’s bodies after they eat the fish. The chemicals that have been found in plastics include nylon, polystyrene, and polyethylene. The researchers who found the microplastics in fish suggested that shellfish might have even more plastic than fish, and that the top European shellfish consumers might consume up to 11,000 pieces of microplastics each year. Not addressing this issue soon will have a severe impact on us all.
In early August 2019 the United Nations issued a report from their Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Their report warned that the unfolding climate change crisis poses a serious global food security threat. It also indicated that without sweeping emissions cuts and transformations to food production and land management, the world stands no chance of staving off catastrophic planetary warming. See this article discussing this 1300 page report, a report co-authored by more than 100 experts from 53 countries. (Note 18)
Below are some of Trump’s statements related to aspects of the global environment, followed by some key Paris Agreement facts.
December 1, 2015: Trump says it’s “ridiculous” for Obama to pursue the Paris climate agreement.
December 30, 2015: During a campaign speech in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Trump criticized Obama for worrying too much about “the carbon footprint” or the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. “I want to use hair spray,” complained Trump. “They say, ‘Don’t use hair spray, it’s bad for the ozone’.” (Note 1) We all know how important Trump’s hair style is to him!
January 24, 2016: On a Fox News interview, Trump said, “And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less. They have very—you know, their standards are nothing. But they—in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it’s very hard on our business.” (Note 1)
May 26, 2016: In a major energy policy speech, Trump said that during his first 100 days in office, he would “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement,” and “stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programs.” (Note 1)
June 1, 2017: Trump announced his plan to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate deal. The president said he was open to renegotiating the agreement, but foreign leaders quickly made clear that wasn’t possible. (Note 1) Many corporate leaders also condemned Trump’s action, including those of GE and IBM.
August 16, 2019: The Wall Street Journal first reported about Trump’s interest in buying Greenland. Though the strategic reasons are murky for this bizarre idea, we believe Trump had seen this short August 2nd video or similar videos of Greenland melting. By buying Greenland, perhaps he thought he could suppress future Greenland melt videos. The 2019 Greenland melt shows to many his climate denier position is flawed.
September 23, 2019: The United Nations convened the Climate Action Summit, calling climate change “the defining issue of our time” (Note 20). Trump dropped by and listened “intently” (with his sleepy eyes closing!) for all of 10 minutes before leaving (Note 23). In a brief press conference that followed, Trump mentioned his administration’s focus on clean air and water, despite its record to the contrary. See U.S. examples 1 to 4, and 9 and 10 above.
October- December 2019
- The United Nations issued a ‘bleak’ report stating countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, including the two biggest polluters, China and the U.S. Read the New York Times article here . The article notes “There are many ways to reduce emissions: quitting the combustion of fossil fuels, especially coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel; switching to renewable energy like solar and wind power; moving away from gas- and diesel-guzzling cars; and halting deforestation.”
- Parts of Venice flooded at their worse level in decades–see photos here, and CNN video report as well.
- Australia is enduring wildfires at a never seen level due to dryness-related heat, and other climate change challenges as described by the New York Times here. The wild fires’ heat, seen here, melted a firetruck.
Key Paris Agreement Facts:
The Agreement was negotiated by representatives of 197 countries with close to 100% ratification. (Note 8) The Paris Agreement is the culmination of 25 years of international climate diplomacy launched with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Republican President George H.W. Bush joined other world leaders to adopt a series of international environmental agreements, including the UNFCCC. President Bush later ratified the UNFCCC with the consent of the U.S. Senate, and the agreement has since been embraced by virtually every nation on earth. (Note 9)
Under the agreement, all countries including China (the China Trump said above on January 2016 ‘couldn’t care less’!) and the United States agreed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. The goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit equivalent),
An interesting point is that the process of the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement cannot be completed until November 4, 2020, which is one day after the results of the 2020 presidential election will be known. If Trump is NOT reelected, this decision possibly can be reversed. (Note 8)
Note 1: Mother Jones Timeline
Note 2: Trump Proposes 31% EPA Cut
Note 3: National Geographic Article
Note 4: NYT Article About Rollbacks Under Trump
Note 5: NYU School of Law Report
Note 6: NYT Article About Farm Workers and Pesticides
Note 7: Video of Trump Discussion of Kidneys & Heart
Note 8: Wikipedia Discussion of Paris Agreement:Withdrawal from Agreement
Note 9: Global Warming vs Climate Change and Weather vs Climate
Note 10: Yale Climate Connections Article on CA Wildfires
Note 11: The Guardian Article on North American Glaciers Melting
Note 12: USA Today Article on Alaskan Glaciers
Note 13: National Geographic Article on High Temps in Europe
Note 14: National Geographic Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Note 15: Microplastics Found in Fish
Note 16: Trump intelligence
Note 17: Alaska Summer 2019
Note 18: United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report
Note 19: Curbs on Methane, Potent Greenhouse Gas, to Be Relaxed in U.S.
Note 20: 2019 Climate Action Summit
Note 21: ‘Mr. President, you’re going to weather jail’
Note 22: Trump alters Hurricane Dorian graphic to justify his claim that Alabama was at risk
Note 23: Trump drops by United Nations climate summit
Note 24: Bank Regulators Present a Dire Warning of Financial Risks From Climate Change
Note 25: At least 60% of Superfund sites vulnerable to climate change, congressional watchdog warns