Today President Trump signed an executive order rolling back scores of Obama-era regulations aimed at mitigating anthropogenic climate disruption. The executive order constitutes an assault on the environment that will annihilate Obama’s environmental record and completely redraw key rules that were set in place to curb US carbon emissions.
Speaking on a stage at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters, surrounded by coal miners at the signing of the order, Trump said, “I am taking historic steps to lift restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.”
Trump has misleadingly described the document as an “energy independence” order, despite the fact that it was crafted directly on behalf of the oil, gas and coal industries and does little, if anything, to make the United States less dependent on fuel imports.
Energy economists have already said that Trump’s order falls far short of a goal of total energy independence, partly because the country already relies heavily on domestic sources for coal and natural gas, which are already being used to run the vast majority of the country’s power plants.
“We don’t import coal,” Robert N. Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University told the New York Times. “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.”
The new executive order comes as we watch what may very well be the death throes of the Great Barrier Reef, the single largest coral ecosystem on Earth, which is undergoing another major coral bleaching event, following a bleaching incident last year that killed 22 percent of the reef.
Meanwhile, Artic sea ice has set a record low peak for the third year in a row, extreme weather events have continued to escalate and a recent report from the World Meteorological Organization has announced that the planet has now entered “truly uncharted territory.”
Trump’s move will only hasten the destabilization of what is left of a planet already deep in the throes of abrupt climate disruption.
Full Court Press
Trump’s order, which coincides with other “environmental” directives, seeks to dismantle Obama-era policies from within the EPA, the Department of Interior and even the Department of Defense.
The Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at limiting carbon pollution from power plants and was the centerpiece of Obama’s climate plan, is to be rewritten. Trump is even asking the Justice Department to stop defending the Clean Power Plan in court.
Coal leasing on public lands, which is currently under a moratorium, will now be allowed, and the executive order also allows for the rewriting of methane emission limits placed on the oil and gas industry. The order also instructs the EPA to ignore its own current calculation on the costs of carbon pollution, while reversing the requirement for federal departments to work on climate mitigation strategies and the assessment of national security risks of anthropogenic climate disruption.
This is all despite the fact that Trump is essentially offering up coal leases that nobody will likely want, given the massive downturn that industry is currently experiencing.
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) even called Trump’s actions “a declaration of war on American leadership on climate change and our clean energy future.”
Burning Up the Country, and the Planet
In addition to the aforementioned, Trump’s order immediately eliminates half a dozen of Obama’s smaller executive orders and memorandums related to combating climate disruption.
The order also makes clear that there is no way the US intends to meet the already skimpy pledges that it made at the Paris climate accords, where it promised to cut its 2005 carbon emissions levels by 26 percent by 2025. It also sends an immediate signal to other countries that they might not need to adhere to their climate disruption mitigation pledges either.
This of course means the planet, which is already well along the road of runaway abrupt climate disruption, has little chance of achieving anything like the serious mitigation steps needed to lessen the impacts, which are already inevitable.
The director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate and clean air program, David Doniger, told The Washington Post that unwinding the Clean Power Plan will not happen quickly, however, no matter what Trump wants. “Tearing the rules down require going through the same process it took to build them up,” he said. “We will make them face the music at every step.”
Onslaught Leads to Immediate Pushback
Several major environmental groups are already poised to push back against Trump’s anti-environment agenda.
Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, speaking of the Trump move, said, “Champagne corks are popping in the board rooms of big corporate polluters as they celebrate this ill-disguised fossil fuel industry wish-list.”
In a statement on the Earthjustice website, Van Noppen added, “This order ignores the law and scientific reality. Dirty coal power is never coming back because it can’t compete with clean energy, and denial won’t make climate change go away. Earthjustice will continue to defend clean air and progress on climate in court and out, and we will never back down from protecting our public lands.”
Many other environmental groups will be filing suit against the move, alongside the two largest, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
While much of Trump’s order goes into effect immediately, other parts of it will take more time, such as hiring coal workers for an industry that is currently in free fall. This would take a large economic upturn in coal prices during a time when much of the rest of the world is weaning itself off the fuel, meaning it could be years (if ever) before those jobs are created and an ensuing escalation of coal production in the US occurs.
That said, rapid deregulation of the oil and gas industries will go into effect immediately, allowing energy companies to spew pollution into the atmosphere unchecked.
Meanwhile, the planet burns.