Trump’s latest executive order targets Obama-era policies designed to combat climate change. The Republican war on the environment–and the entire planet–continues.
What’s going on?
The wide-ranging order, which will be accompanied by other environmental directives, targets Obama-era policies across the government, including in the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Department of Defense. It directs the EPA to revisit the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon pollution from power plants and was considered the center-piece of former President Barack Obama's climate policy. Additionally, Trump is asking the Justice Department to stop defending the plan in court. The president will instruct agencies to rescind a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands; rewrite limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry; and ignore the EPA's current calculation on the costs of carbon pollution. There are also broad directives reversing an Obama initiative requiring that federal departments consider climate mitigation strategy and the national security risks of global warming.
As the same article points out, though, it’s not a total loss: the US has not (yet) officially withdrawn from the Paris climate treaty. But it would be naive to assume Republicans won’t do whatever they can to make that happen, as well.
Why is it important?
Climate change is the environmental issue of our time. It will eventually affect virtually every aspect of human life on this planet: what we eat, how we live, how we die, how we prosper–or not. Its importance cannot be exaggerated. Meanwhile, Republicans–Trump included–don’t even believe it’s a real issue. Or at least, that’s what they claim. There is ample evidence that the corporate backers of the GOP know full well that climate change is a slow-motion disaster for humanity and for the planet, but have spent a fortune keeping anything from being done about it. At this point, however, there is a global consensus on the issue, and if the US is going to step back and ignore the problem, we will simply be left behind–and quite possibly punished for our lack of participation.
What can I do?
When the President is uncooperative, Congress and the court system are the other venues by which these issues can be addressed at the federal level. It’s unlikely much will be done to combat climate change with a Republican Congress in power, so that essentially leaves legal recourse. But there are also the state and local levels to consider, and there are plenty of things you can do in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint. It would be far better to have a national strategy that ties into an overall global effort, but you work at whatever level you can to do what is possible at the time. This is not an issue that is going to go away, and the impact of this executive order, should it be fully implemented, will reverberate far beyond Trump’s tenure in office.