It’s getting more and more difficult to remain optimistic for the future of American climate policy under Trump in these bi-weekly analyses.
After the debacle that emerged as our nation’s future for federal funding — science in general saw significant cuts, global climate change research was gutted completely — President Trump made moves to eradicate any shred of President Obama’s climate legacy, as it has come to be known. Probably just for the sake of it being Obama’s.
How can the pendulum swing this far away from all the ‘progress’ on climate consensus in just 74 days?
We went from having a president who protected the most square kilometers of ocean ecosystem EVER, to a president who has just promised to bring back coal jobs to miners in the Appalachian states — and who has had deleted the words ‘climate change mitigation’ from the State Department website.
President Obama pledged to bring renewable energy technologies up to speed, to compete with other global markets like China and India, on the quest for reduced emissions, improved air quality, and combating increasingly concerning climate change. President Trump proclaimed the revival of clean coal just 5 days ago, and I can scarcely breathe.
I imagine the coal miners, if they aren’t suffering from medical complications already, will scarcely be able to breathe in a few short years, too.
That’s a morbid thought, I know, but it’s true.
Public health officials (and laymen alike) already know the disastrous effects of coal mining on the human body — and that’s completely discounting the impacts of mountaintop removal and underground, by-hand mining on the surrounding ecosystems. There’s that saying ‘the canary in the coal mine’ for a good reason.
But it’s more than just coal mining, Clean Power Plan erasure, public health and ecosystem impacts … it’s the fact that the rest of America’s legislative power is on Trump’s ‘side’ — when there shouldn’t even be sides in the first place.
This is about the future live-ability of our beloved, shared planet, and we’ve turned it into a congressional shouting match, not to mention a presidential prerogative when really it should be up to the people whose lives are going to (have to) change.
The “social cost” of carbon has also been silenced by Trump in the past week. As with the budget cuts of last month, government spending and inflation, I guess, is to blame for America’s current abhorrence to Obama’s terms as president. Deregulation of the fossil-fuel industry, in the form of relaxed fracking and methane-capture rules, and an elimination of federal funding for scientific research has been Trump’s legacy on climate policy, thus far. Moving away from government to corporate, industry interests seems to be the way of Trump; as a businessman himself, this trend makes sense.
But he’s also taking the American people with him on this decry of government as ‘problem only.’ Sounds like the state of affairs a few decades prior: “By the late 1970s, most of America was convinced that government was the issue. It was effective simple politics and bad analysis [emphasis added]” (Madrick, p. 5).
Jeff Madrick, author of “The Case for Big Government” (2009), which I introduced as a text to examine in the last analysis, argues that it’s government’s “management of change is what is critical” to winning over the hearts and minds of its citizens — not the complete defunding and defacing of it.
“Without an active government, a nation cannot respond adequately to its times. If it does not respond to new conditions, both economic growth and the ability to retain the nation’s values will suffer. … The lesson is that pragmatic government should prevail over any categorical or typically ideological dismissal of the uses of government … If what we think of as big government is necessary to manage change, and in a complex society it may well be, then we should pursue it actively and positively, and make it function well [emphasis added]” (p. 8)
I definitely see truth to this analysis. Times are a’changing, especially in regards to energy policies and state diplomacy in the wake of increasing threats to livelihood from climate change all around the world.
As a nation that emits its (more than, I would forcefully argue) fair share of greenhouse gas emissions, we as the United States of America must be diligent in our quest to lead the rest of the world in clean(er) technologies for energy capture/storage, as well as build resilience in our communities for projected changes — or someone else will replace us in the starting line-up.
China has already come out in dismay against Trump’s proposed budget cuts to climate change resilience and associated research. We risk our legitimacy as a ‘freedom flung’ nation, and as a mover-and-shaker of the world for good if we let these issues go down the drain (like all that rising sea water on the East Coast…).
But, maybe that’s not what ‘America’ wants. Maybe America just wants to better itself, make itself ‘great again’.
But what if that’s not all we all want to do?