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President Donald Trump pokes an environmental house of cards

Trump's climate change denial: How the president is undoing decades of environmentalism

If you're at all concerned about the environment, or the fate of the world's ecosystems upon which we all depend, then you probably have cause to be extremely worried. We have now passed beyond the threshold of sustainability, the point at which the Earth's natural resources can no longer replenish themselves. Carbon monoxide levels are critical, the ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising rapidly around the word. At this point, it's never been more important for us to turn our bad habits around and focus on clean energy, recycling, sustainability and eradicating pollution. Worryingly for many environmentalists, the current official position taken by the Trump administration seems to be one of outright denial, and Trump's policies are very much geared towards industry, economic growth and production - at the expense of the natural world. When it comes to Trump and climate change, the environment isn't a high priority.

In fact, numerous scientists have confirmed this month that the administration is actively suppressing any information concerned with climate change in a bid to avoid panic and to justify Trump's industrialist policies. This report for example, which was recently obtained by the New York Times, was apparently ignored by Trump. It concludes: "Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change."

Donald Trump at a Republican rally. Credit: Getty

Despite these solemn words, Trump still seems to have his head in the sand when it comes to issues pertaining to the environment. But to be fair to him, Trump is only thinking about the issue from the capitalist perspective that made him a billionaire. The truth is that Trump (and now, by implication, the United States government) frames the matter in terms of supply and demand. The production is so high and so devastating because our demand for commodities is out of control and there's profit to be made.

Immediately after being inaugurated, Trump revealed a new, ostensibly environmental policy he dubbed: "America First Energy Plan", which gave ecologists serious cause for concern, since it appeared to focus exclusively on the promotion of fossil fuels at the expense of green energy sources such as solar or wind power. Trump made it clear that he wholeheartedly intended to repeal many of the fundamental energy polices of the former Obama administration, such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US ruling, as well as curtailing the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The mandate from the White House's official website states: "The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximise the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil ... For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years."

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The same press release states that the Trump administration is committed to exploiting shale oil and gas on American soil, and states that there's an estimated $50 trillion worth of energy to be plumbed. But it also states: "Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water."

A number of environmental experts who were important authorities on climate change during the Obama administration have since come forward and claimed that Trump is undoing critical legislation for the sake of making a short-term profit off the back of fossil fuels, and over the last few months of Trump's tenure, the republican leader has repealed a number of vital initiatives, such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule. Trump has expressed a desire to resuscitate America's coal industry and promote a gradual deregulation.

An anti-Trump environmental protest. Credit: Getty

Most egregious of all is Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement; shocking, considering that only two nations out of 197 have agreed to withdraw. Before this seismic move was made, the US had already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by the year 2020. But Trump claims that following the Paris Agreement will mean that America will lose its dominance when it comes to energy, and that Obama's engagement with the accord has cost Americans valuable jobs and revenue.

In a speech made shortly after the decision was made to withdraw, Trump stated that "It would once have been unthinkable that an international agreement could prevent the United States from conducting its own domestic affairs. At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won’t be." He is clearly ignoring the diplomatic disadvantages that this would surely present his administration, and the fact that the US alone is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of global fossil fuel emissions.

Al Gore, former Vice President and noted environmentalist, stated in the wake of this decision: "removing the United States from the Paris agreement is a reckless and indefensible action. It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time.”

An anti-Trump environmental protest. Credit: Getty

At the heart of all of this furore is Trump's inherent obstinacy and stubbornness. The very same qualities that make him such an admirable statesman to his supporters also make him so troublesome to his detractors. It's clear that Trump wants to promote America's image as being ahead of the game, and to focus on an inward-looking, patriotic response to the economy and American jobs. But ultimately, even if Trump manages to secure the vast amount of money to be made off the back of new jobs in the energy sector, there's no guarantee that new green jobs won't instead be offered to overseas competitors. Trump wants short-term advantages and financial gain. But here's the thing about climate change: its effects are going to be long-term and disastrous, and we only have a narrow opportunity to fix things before the planet is plunged into a state of irreversible collapse.

Featured illustration by Egarcigu