Climate change: hurricane Donald Trump has arrived

Climate change: hurricane Donald Trump has arrived

May 12, 2017

Climate change: hurricane Donald Trump has arrived

Deep cuts to environmental agencies, debatable cabinet appointments and anti-science positions guide the USA’s new policies on the environment, causing alarm among scientists and citizens.

Years of environmental policies and initiatives which tried to put the brakes on climate change are at risk of collapsing under the force of new policies from US President Donald Trump. In a global context, where governments are making an effort to protect the environment with policies for sustainability (including international treaties such as that signed in Paris), the choices made by the USA seem decidedly out of key. They’ve even drawn the ire of the scientific community, sparking protest and a large demonstration in support of the work of scientists: the March for Science, held on the 22nd April 2017. 

Cuts in the pipeline

The first official budget proposal signed by Donald Trump for the 2018 fiscal year has been interpreted more as a political statement than as an economic plan, one which reveals many of the President’s ideas for the future of the nation. Protecting the environment and mitigating climate change do not seem to be a priority for the Trump government, if we are to judge by a few of the more striking developments in the new economic programme. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget will be reduced by nearly a third, while that of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which among other things helps coastal populations deal with the effects of climate change, will be cut by hundreds of millions of dollars. Even NASA is facing cutbacks, with 102 million dollars less for the Earth Science programme, defined as too “focused on the planet earth” when the agency should be primarily concerned with space exploration. 

However, the entire system of environmental protection and sustainability will suffer, to the detriment of air quality and soil contamination, once programmes which directly cover these aspects are eliminated.


So far, the reaction from the agricultural world has been ambivalent. Agriculture, as illustrated in the BCFN publication “Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change”, is among the main causes of greenhouse gas emissions and one of the first victims of climate change. For now, however, the Trump administration isn’t concerned with sustainability in the industry, preferring to focus on the economic aspects as stated in a document published on the 24th April, such as the competitiveness of American produce and the lack of a workforce stemming from the restrictions on immigration imposed by the new administration.

Energy: a step backwards

With the Energy Independence Executive Order signed by President Trump on the 28th March 2017, many of the climate change policies aimed at increasing the sustainability of industrial and economic developments established by the Obama White House will be eliminated or modified. This goal was announced in a statement from the EPA, now led by Scott Pruitt, who has a long history working in the fossil fuels industry and who has even brought numerous legal cases against the very agency he currently heads. In particular, the Clean Power Plan is under attack, a document which symbolises the USA’s fight against global warming: its goal is a 32% reduction in emissions from energy plants by 2030. The plan was a pointless move according to Pruitt, who publicly stated (in full contrast to the official position of the EPA itself) that he doesn’t think CO2 emissions are the main cause of global warming. “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see”, Pruitt specified. 


To reinforce this viewpoint of climate change denial, on the 13th April 2017 Pruitt met with a group of miners to present the “Back-to-Basics” plan, which will “bring work back to American miners with the goal of restoring the energy independence which past policies have weakened”. 

Facing such drastic changes, science cannot just sit by and watch. Indeed, a great number of scientists have spoken out against decisions which run counter to essentially all scientific data available to us today and which threaten to undo years of the global fight against climate change. Science is based on facts not personal opinion, they caution, explaining that the scientific community unanimously agrees on the role CO2 emissions play in climate change. This isn’t an opinion, but undeniable fact, even if the new president of the USA seems to want to turn his back on progress. 

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