Bill Knight column for Thursday, Friday or Saturday, Nov. 24, 25 or 26, 2016
In 2012 Donald Trump posted on Twitter, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” an assertion he essentially repeated at a Hilton Head rally in 2015 before later claiming he’d been joking.
Meanwhile, respected environmental journalist Bill McKibben, author of 1989’s “The End of Nature,” recently commented that climate change isn’t coming; it’s here. Citing extreme weather events such as unusual flooding and droughts, plus melting Arctic ice and rising sea levels, McKibben frames climate change as a global disaster akin to war.
“World War III is well and truly underway,” he’s said. “And we are losing.”
Elsewhere, the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) has noted that humanity’s losing could get much worse given what the President-Elect could do. While some Clinton supporters, Democratic Party activists and progressives discuss political responses for 2018 or 2020, one wonders whether that’s all so much parlor-room nonsense as Earth faces ruin.
Here are 10 areas a Trump administration could turn what his supporters thought was a vote for change into a colossal unintended consequence: a planet-wide catastrophe:
1. Oil and gas pipelines: Trump could revive the stalled Dakota Access Pipeline and the shelved Keystone XL Pipeline, bringing more fossil fuels into the atmosphere while risking routes’ land and water.
2. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the Obama administration’s plan to reduce greenhouse emissions from coal-electric plants. Already challenged in court, it could be rescinded, as Trump has promised. Oddly, some operators are shifting to fuels that will reduce CO2 emissions without the regulations.
3. Solar, wind and other renewables could be discouraged or abandoned if government intervenes (encouraged by industry lobbies and campaign contributions).
4. The Bipartisan Energy Bill, still pending in Congress, “includes removal of regulatory barriers to energy development and ‘infrastructure’ like pipelines – things Trump and a lot of other Republicans say they want,” SEJ reports. “Will the Senate and House versions be reconciled before the lame-duck session ends? Would Obama sign it? Would Trump?”
5. Court cases on Clean Air Act rules such as regulations on mercury and ozone standards are still in dispute. Will the incoming administration press on, compromise or surrender?
6. The Water Resources Development Act also awaits reconciliation on Capitol Hill, including a deal for funds to help communities protect against lead-contaminated water. Will Congress finish the work or let politics interrupt the effort?
7. The Waters of the U.S. rule has sustained exaggerated attacks since the EPA proposed it, and legal issues remain unresolved. States are on each side of the measure to protect wetlands, and many interests will feel the impact: positive or negative.
8. Leasing for coal on federal land, and for gas and oil – onshore and offshore – all must be finalized. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) expects to complete a draft next month on coal, but its final form probably won’t be ready until after Inauguration. Likewise, the BLM has just overhauled rules for oil and gas leasing on federal lands to measure production accurately for royalties and to protect aquifers from fracking. But drillers – and Trump – has called for rolling back regulations, and fracking’s could relax, even for National Park or Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lands. Similarly, as shown by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, offshore accidents can cause untold amounts of damage. A current, five-year plan allows no drilling off the Atlantic coast. Will it survive?
9. Trump seems sympathetic with the public lands movement embodied and emboldened by the Bundy family and their armed takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Will Trump defer to private over public interests?
10. Finally, what about respect for, and future of, science integrity? Previously, when scientific consensus was reached, progress was made in protecting people or species. “Current environmental health science wars rage over chemicals such as the herbicides glyphosate and atrazine,” SEJ reports, “and there have been allegations of industry putting its thumb on the science scale. Will an ‘anti-science’ Trump administration intervene?”
Time will tell; but is time on our side?
[PICTURED: graphic from grondamorin.com, where its caption reads, "Artist’s rendering of Donald Trump’s EPA, c. 2019."]