Trump Declares War on the Environment

Photo by Tammy Anthony Baker/Flickr

2016 marked the hottest year on record following the three consecutive year streak of hottest years. Ice caps are melting at faster rates and super storms, earthquakes, and ecosystem destruction are becoming the norm. Scientists have been pleading with world leaders to take action, to divest from fossil fuels, and invest in green, sustainable energy. The question of human impact on the environment is no longer something that needs to be debated since 97% of scientists agree that global climate change is due to human impact. But science is clearly not enough for President Donald Trump as he has said that global climate change is a hoax. The man that is leading the country that produces around 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions does not think that those poisonous gases negatively impact our climate.

Not even Trump’s pick to head up the very governmental agency that was made to protect the environment believes these 97% of scientists! As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt sued the Environmental Protection Agency numerous times. Throughout Pruitt’s career he has fought on behalf of the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Not only is it a huge conflict of interest when this man has pending lawsuits against the agency, but he has also received campaign contributions from the very companies he will be in charge of regulating.

As we go to press it is being reported that Trump will soon announce the abandonment of any pretense of trying to reach the goals which the U.S. committed to in the 2015 Paris climate talks of reducing carbon emissions by 26% from 2005 levels by 2025. Even these cuts were far below what is needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Trump will order Pruitt to abandon the Clean Power Plan which aimed to shut down hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired plants and freeze construction of new plants. While proposing to cut the EPA budget by 31%, Trump and Pruitt will also seek to abandon Obama’s tailpipe emissions standards (New York Times, 3/23/17) . While many of these proposals can and will be challenged in the federal courts the overall effect on even the halfhearted effort of capitalist governments to address climate change will be devastating.

Trump Era Begins

Trump and the Republicans have demonstrated in the past couple months that they are prepared to directly attack the well-being of sections of their own base. Trumpcare, as we explain on page 4, is an onslaught on working people and the poor, including the rural poor. It is a massive transfer of wealth to the rich with more to come in the Republicans’ proposed “tax reform”. Trump’s budget also attacks programs that benefit ordinary people in communities across the country.

Likewise Trump’s threat to rip up regulations made to protect the environment will also be detrimental to the working people he is claiming to represent. For example, in the name of allowing the coal industry to create more jobs, Trump is proposing to get rid of Obama’s Clean Water Rule which helped to extend protection of the Clean Water Act to smaller bodies of water such as streams and wetlands. Under Trump’s proposed new regulations, coal mining companies still would not be able to dump waste in large bodies of water but they would be able to dump in streams (which run through many of the rural areas that former coal miners are from) that may be dry for portions of the year and wetlands that are extremely important for our ecosystems.

The coal industry has become highly automated (like many jobs these days) and needs less and less workers to run the mines and processing plants. Therefore it is not environmental regulation that has eliminated the tens of thousands of coal mining jobs but it is overwhelmingly the advances in technology that have put people out of work. Many states and countries are moving away from coal use as well, with the availability of cheap natural gas and the push to more sustainable energy. Donald Trump will not be able to change that dynamic and he is lying to the millions of people living in coal country.

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

Trump the climate denier is making the Obama administration look good. The perception is that Obama worked hard to address climate change but the reality is rather different. People generally do not think of oil production when thinking of the Obama years, but during his time in office, the U.S. increased its daily number of barrels pumped by more than 70% with fracking accounting for half of the output increase.

Obama claimed that this would produce jobs and help the U.S. become an energy independent country. But at what cost? This method of oil and gas extraction forces farmers to compete with the oil companies for water supplies just to have this water poisoned and made unusable. Not only does fracking toxify around 14 billion gallons of water per year, but it ruins the earth’s natural water cycles making drought more prevalent. Fracking also releases methane gas which is more than 80 times more efficient at trapping heat than CO2. Talk about global warming! This will inevitably speed up that process.

There were small attempts during Obama’s presidency to try to lessen the release of CO2 into the atmosphere including the non-binding Paris accord. Obama canceled the Keystone XL pipeline and in the last days of his administration also blocked construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline but only after an extremely determined struggle involving thousands of native Americans and others. Tragically this is now being overturned my Trump.

The Continued Resistance

In 2014, we saw the largest demonstration in decades in New York City with almost half a million people marching in the People’s Climate March. This gathering showed the growing awareness of the American people, especially young people, have in regards to the sense of the urgent need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. They know this means a fight to the end against entrenched corporate interests.

This year there are plans for a mass March for Science on Earth Day, April 22 (see page 8) and an even bigger People’s Climate March on April 29. Hitting the streets is absolutely necessary if we want to fight against Trump’s backwards agenda. But it cannot stop there. The environmental movement needs the support of the labor movement to fight the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to pit jobs against the environment. The battle must be won within the labor movement to support the call for a massive green infrastructure program to rapidly transition the economy to renewable energy and provide good union jobs to all current fossil fuel workers.

As we have seen millions of people are ready to fight against Trump’s racist and sexist agenda. Trump’s attack on health care is provoking mass outrage and could split his base. But millions are also prepared to fight to defend the environment. It affects us everyday and is essential to our future. Fighting to protect the planet isn’t something cannot be postponed. It is part and parcel of the fight for a new world free of Trump and corporate domination.

Socialist Alternative says:

  • Stop Trump’s attacks on environmental regulations and his threatened cuts of funding for mass transit.
  • For a multi-trillion dollar program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure on the basis of renewable energy and to massively expand mass transit and energy conservation paid for by taxing the rich.
  • For a just transition for all fossil fuel workers with free retraining.
  • Build a mass movement to shut down Trump’s entire anti-working class agenda.