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Trump and the environment

Trump's policies will endanger the environment, but the chances of them being passed in Congress in the near future are slim.

R. Maruf

R. Maruf

Michael Jairam, Opinions Editor

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The Trump presidency is on the horizon, and many Americans are wondering what sort of change he’ll bring to the nation. On the campaign trail Trump was bombastic, promising to restore American strength, pride and perhaps most crucially, jobs. Manufacturing jobs, in particular. However, climate scientists argue his promises to rehabilitate blue collar workers could very well do the opposite for the environment.

     On the campaign trail Trump promised to approve the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, overturn the Clean Power Plan, withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, allow the development of energy infrastructure on public lands and lift restrictions on coal mining. It’s quite the bucket list, and to environmentalists it signals the undoing of nearly a decade of work. However, it’s also important to assess how feasible it is to actually implement these promises.

     According to the Scientific American, the Trump administration would have the power to immediately overturn certain restrictions on coal mining, speed the process of developing energy on public lands and approve the Keystone XL pipeline if the proposal is once again submitted. Speedy action on these issues would give him the chance to come good on some promises, and are likely to quickly come to pass.      

      However, larger pieces of legislation, such as Obama’s Clean Power Plan, are far too large and complex to take immediate action on, especially with Democrats united in staunch opposition to overturning it. Furthermore, the Paris Climate Agreement has already been ratified by nearly 200 countries, and even our allies, such as Canada and France, have displayed a willingness to slap tariffs on American products should we withdraw. These factors make taking action very difficult, and thus the acts have a high chance of staying intact.

     The Trump administration is already proving unpredictability after appointing Myron Ebell, a famed climate change denier, to the head of the EPA transition team, even as Trump himself changed some of his rhetoric on the environment.  When asked if he would really withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the shift became clear. “I’m looking at it very closely,” he said. “I have an open mind to it.”

     Floridians in particular should look at this sort of instability with alarm. Federal scientists have already noted the increase in flooding across the state as water levels continue to rise, and the New York Times has stated that costs to address rising sea levels will cost South Florida billions of dollars, even as the region receives little in the way of federal or state aid to combat the issue. If climate change proceeds as has been projected, then the residents of this state will likely be the first to feel it.

     Environmentalists have cause to feel cheerful even if they cannot trust their government to work towards their agenda, however. According to Bloomberg authors Mahmoud Habboush and Claudia Carpenter, market forces are currently the major propellant behind the installation of clean energy resources. The dramatic reduction in costs for solar power in particular mean capitalism could ironically prove the saving grace for our planet instead of government regulation.

     Overall, Trump will be able to accomplish some parts of his agenda should he try, yet it will very much remain a mixed bag of results. Though he clearly believes in expanding the use of fossil fuels, market forces continue to drive forward green technology and hurt coal. Even the man who famously stated that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese will have his hands tied, and because of that much of his campaign promises will remain empty.

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Trump and the environment