THE NEXT FOUR YEARS: WHAT DOES A TRUMP PRESIDENCY MEAN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

Isobel Whitcomb ‘17

Environmental Columnist

So far, the fight against climate change has been and is a long, hard slog. It’s difficult to make quick progress in a country so divided by political parties and corporate interests that consensus seems impossible. However, we are at an important turning point. Under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the US made a commitment to cut carbon emissions by one-third before 2030 (and even made some progress towards that goal). At the Paris Climate Conference, we signed a “binding, ambitious” contract. Change was happening at a painfully slow rate.

But it was happening.

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 1.11.34 PM.png

And then we elected a climate change denier.

Climate change is progressing much more quickly than many experts initially predicted. To prevent as much damage as possible, a constant effort to change society’s relationship to our environment and resources is absolutely necessary. This effort cannot wait even 4 years.

Trump’s presidency not only threatens to halt progress but to set it back it as much as 10 years. Trump’s proposed cabinet is composed entirely of other climate change deniers. Among Trump’s stated goals are to dismantle the EPA, pull the US out of the agreement made at the Paris Climate Conference, and gut Obama’s Clean Power Plan. He plans to grow the fossil fuel industry by reducing regulations on fracking, building pipelines, and tapping into shale sources of oil and gas.

How does he plan on funding these progress? In part, by canceling billions in climate change spending.

According to Bill McKibben, the president of Climate Organization 350.org, a Trump the presidency has the potential to leave an impact measured on a geological timescale.

So what can we do?

Fortunately, it is still true that 75% of Americans believe in climate change. It is still true that 50% of Americans see it as a serious threat. This fact gives environmentalists hope that progress can continue even without the support of the government. Businesses and individuals can invest in and switch to renewable energy. Although capitalism is what led to the growth of the oil industry, it can also dismantle it. Market forces are leaning towards renewable energy as it is a cheaper source than fossil fuels.

The fact is that the American economy has continued to grow even as we have cut emissions. According to Andrew Steer of the World Resources Institute, this proves that the idea of a “trade-off between environmental management and economic growth” is a total misconception. But we can’t totally depend on our economic system to lead to the oil industry’s natural death.

We also have to remember that state governments have an important role in regulating the use of energy resources. Over 30 states currently have renewable energy standards.

Finally, we can use this election, as we have in so many other movements, as a point from which to galvanize public support for a movement. Perhaps, instead, it will become clear that apathy is not an option.

“Change was happening at a painfully slow rate. But it was happening. And then we elected a climate change denier.”

“Trump’s presidency not only threatens to halt progress, but to set it back it at much as 10 years.”