During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, a common theme among the candidates was that the U.S. needed to scale back efforts to combat climate change because one country can’t go it alone. The candidates’ thoughts were that other countries were still polluting, so why should the U.S. “destroy our economy” to address climate change?
The only problem with this talking point is that it simply isn’t true. In fact, thanks to President Donald Trump’s decision to scale back some of the most aggressive climate protections enacted by former President Obama, the U.S. is now the country appearing to take a lackadaisical approach toward climate change.
On Tuesday, March 28, Donald Trump unveiled an executive order that will initiate a “review” of the Clean Power Plan. The order will also force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review all environmental regulations and safety standards to determine which ones are the most detrimental to U.S. jobs. According to the administration, the desire to scale back environmental protections, and part of the reasoning behind the proposed 31 percent cut in EPA funding, is to help bring back American jobs that were allegedly destroyed by these environmental safeguards (again, another talking point that has been thoroughly debunked.)
The irony with Trump’s dismantling of EPA programs and protections is that the United States is now guilty of what Republicans have been accusing other countries of doing, which is letting polluters call the shots with no regard for the environment. And just like Republicans were angry when they believed the U.S. was acting on climate while no one else was, leaders around the globe are furious about the Trump administration’s decisions to scale back environmental protections that undermine international climate agreements.
Scientists and elected officials in Europe were quick to speak out about the Trump administration’s plans to cut U.S. climate protections, saying that the United States, once a leader on these issues, is now moving backwards at a time when everyone else is making forward progress.
Thomas Stocker, a former co-chair of the United Nations scientific panel on climate change, said that Trump’s actions show that the United States has abdicated its position as a global leader on the issue of climate change and environmental protection. Stocker said that other countries will now have to step in and serve as a leader on this issue.
Germany's environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, echoed Stocker’s claims by saying that any country that begins moving backwards rather than forward is going to be working against its own self interests. Hendricks also pointed out that the renewable energy sector across the globe has been adding jobs at an astonishing rate, a trend that the United States may now miss out on thanks to the actions of President Trump.
Other countries are already showing far more leadership than the United States. For example, China announced plans earlier this year to replace a fleet of nearly 70,000 fossil-fueled taxis in Beijing with an all-electric fleet in the near future. India has set a goal of achieving 60 percent renewable energy by the year 2027, which would lead to a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.
So while other countries are stepping up to address the global climate challenge, the United States is now on course to reverse years of moderate progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and related air pollution tied to burning fossil fuels.
“This president wants to return to the days of toxic dumping free-for-alls, black spewing smokestacks, and increasing rates of asthma for children in the most vulnerable neighborhoods across the country — all for the sake of corporate profits for his friends,” Lindsey Allen, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, said in a statement.
With President Trump's shift to supporting fossil fuels and away from renewable energy, environmental groups also warned of how that would impact the economy.
In a message sent to supporters, the Climate Reality Project president and CEO Ken Berlin said, “While there is no doubt these executive actions will be challenged in court, it’s clear the administration is doing everything in its power to weaken efforts to fight the climate crisis … Unfortunately, the administration continues to fail to recognize that when clean energy loses, the American economy loses.”