Donald Trump laid out his environmental policies in a speech last week in Bismark, North Dakota. As usual, The Donald spoke in broad generalities without giving specifics. He told his audience he would roll back President Obama’s climate change regulations, build the Keystone XL pipeline, and “cancel” the landmark Paris climate agreement. He has said many times he would re-open America’s coal mines and put coal miners back to work. In essence, he proposes to undo virtually every US initiative to combat climate warming and ameliorate the effects of climate change in the past decade.
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University and one of the world’s most highly esteemed climate scientist, said after Trump’s remarks, “In my assessment, it is not an overstatement to say that Donald Trump’s climate change views and policy proposals constitute ‘an existential threat to this planet.’ ”
Other climate scientists were quick to echo Mann’s point of view. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, noted that Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement are “absolutely critical steps in the right direction.” She said reneging on the Paris climate agreement and rolling back the Clean Power Plan would be detrimental for future generations — and to her personal patriotism.
“Turning back would not only diminish the quality of life for our children and their children, but it would also be a sorry message to the rest of the world that US leadership does not base its decisions on facts or science but rather on greed and selfishness,” she said. “I would be much less proud to be an American if Trump gets his way.”
Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used even stronger words. “[My] quick reaction is that his comments show incredible ignorance with regard to the science and global affairs,” he said. “He absolutely must not be elected and it would be a disaster if he were,” he added.
Trenberth praised the “remarkable” achievements of the Clean Power Plan and the Paris climate agreement, both of which Trump has promised to eliminate. The Clean Power Plan is the Obama administration’s regulatory effort to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which are America’s largest source of carbon emissions.
Katharine Hayhoe is director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She sees Trump’s words as undermining the position of leadership among the world’s nations that the United States currently enjoys. “If the US does nothing on climate, the chances of every other nation succeeding in its targets are small, due to the impact of the US economy on everything from trade to technology transfer,” she says.
Her position is supported by a recent New York Times/CBS poll, which found that approximately two-thirds of Americans “support the United States joining a binding international agreement to curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions.” She goes on to say, “As the impacts grow ever more evident, severe, and costly, what was obvious to the 195 nations who met in Paris will become obvious to every human on this planet: doing something about climate change is far cheaper than not.”
Under a Trump administration, the United States is in danger of becoming a pariah nation, shunned by the other nations of the world. Trump’s words have the effect of labeling China, India, and all of Europe, all of whom are working aggressively to curb their carbon emissions, as being little more than idiots. It is unlikely that message will do much to endear the United States to its global neighbors.
Of course, The Donald could care less what anyone else thinks. His egotism knows no bounds. Rather than making America great again, his policies will make the United States irrelevant on the world stage and the object of derision by other nations.
As the Clean 200 report makes clear, companies that are investing in low-carbon technology are thriving, while the fossil fuel sector is facing an increasingly dismal financial future. The pathway forward for America is to embrace a carbon-free future based on clean, renewable energy rather than looking backwards to an era when belching smokestacks were the symbol of its prosperity.