Very few people expected Donald Trump to be an environmental advocate from within the White House. Given his background in climate change denial, once referring to global warming as a hoax engineered by the Chinese to stifle American enterprise, as well as his sworn preference for market freedoms over government regulation, Trump would hardly be considered a friend of Mother Nature. Once elected into office, he nominated Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt had spent the bulk of his career launching lawsuits against the EPA as Oklahoma’s attorney general, fighting for deregulation in the name of corporate interests. While the U.S.’s future in the international Paris Climate Accords remains uncertain, with U.N. arbitrators raising concerns that the world’s leading economic and military superpower might exit and unravel the entire agreement, domestic actions suggest that Trump is furthering his campaign promises to deregulate and allow major corporations to exploit the environment while taking it straight to the bank.
Recently, the EPA has removed scientific data on climate change from its websites, limiting public access to critical information on the state of the planet. Hannah Arendt once described the role that totalitarian leaders play in eradicating truth from the political sphere to generate their own false reality that can captivate and mobilize a mob to commit heinous acts. But, we wouldn’t want to sound too alarmist. The Trump administration also pushed deep budget cuts to the EPA in its budget proposals, calling for a more than 40% reduction in funding for the agency’s primary scientific branch. And this all takes place as the man at the helm of the agency casts doubt on the role that CO2 emissions play on environmental degradation.
In its latest move to send a major middle-finger to the planet, the Trump administration announced that it would be dismissing at least five members of a major scientific review board within the EPA. The scientists currently sitting on that board are to be replaced with industry representatives from the very corporations the EPA is designed to regulate. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said a spokesperson for the agency. With academics out and corporate moguls in, the sway of the EPA is predictably going to be toward business interests, which will mean significant rollbacks on Obama-era climate change reforms and substantial increases in harmful greenhouse gas emissions. “This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” said the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ken Kimmell.
The board from which the scientists have been removed is tasked with reviewing and analyzing research conducted by EPA scientists, which is then used by policymakers to draft statutes and regulations on a broad range of activities, including hazardous waste dumping and general carbon dioxide output. But who needs professional scientists, right? Surely individuals with business degrees and finance backgrounds can analyze dense scientific data on complex environmental issues and make responsible conclusions that will impact the future of humanity, right?
Skepticism is an understatement.
What do you think about the Trump administration’s latest jab at the environment?