Since the Trump administration released its blockbuster report on the day after Thanksgiving outlining the dire environmental and economic impacts of climate change, it has made a series of policy and diplomatic decisions or statements that appear to run counter to all of the warnings in the report.
In fact, none are designed to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which the report said is needed to combat extreme climate change, which otherwise will cause “substantial damages to the US economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
President Donald Trump, who previously has called climate change a “hoax,” has rejected the report’s conclusion that climate change could be devastating for the economy, saying “I don’t believe it.”
Here’s what the administration has said and done since Thanksgiving:
Coal rule rollback
The Environmental Protection Agency last week proposed relaxing regulations for newly-built coal-fueled power plants. Combined with another proposal to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, the two rules would overhaul the way coal-fired plants are built and regulated.
EPA acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the carbon-capture technology required by the Obama-era made constructing new power plants too expensive.
But the decline of coal for power plants has been a long-term trend regardless as the energy industry has moved to less expensive sources such as natural gas.
Environmentalists worry the proposed rule suggests the EPA will set new standards that would weaken the requirements that the agency uses to regulate other types of pollution.
The administration may “be trying to lower the bar significantly for future new sources of pollution that the EPA tries to regulate,” said Mary Anne Hitt, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
Sides with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at climate conference
Considering Trump announced the US would walk away from the Paris climate agreement – which brought together the rest of the world – it’s no surprise the US continues to be an outlier on the international stage.
The US sided with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait over the weekend at the COP24 global climate summit in Poland to contest language supporting a landmark climate report on limiting global warming.
Countries were asked to “welcome” the report put out by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says governments around the world must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.
The US and the three other nations sided against “welcoming” the measure.
“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the State Department said in a statement.
“As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report,” it added.
Cabinet secretaries and other senior US officials have attended the climate summits in the past, but the administration instead sent a delegation of working-level staff is attending the meeting, as are representatives from US states and businesses.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Walks away from G20 agreement
At the recent G20 meeting in Argentina, which came just days after the release of that dire climate report, US diplomats insisted on noting that the US reaffirmed its intention to withdraw from the Paris accord.
A clause in a communique signed by the member nations says the US “reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and affirms its strong commitment to economic growth and energy access and security, utilizing all energy sources and technologies, while protecting the environment.”
The separate language was required for Trump to sign off on the communique, a senior US official said.
’Christmas came a few weeks early’
When the US Geological Survey last week announced a major discovery of oil and natural gas underneath Texas and New Mexico, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called it a gift.
“Christmas came a few weeks early this year,” he said. “American strength flows from American energy, and as it turns out, we have a lot of American energy.”
Zinke’s position involves the dual and sometimes competing roles of overseeing leases to develop resources – such as oil, natural gas, and minerals – and preserving federal lands for wildlife and human recreational uses.
Cuts to sage grouse habitat
The Interior Department proposed to cut protections that benefited the sage grouse, a grassland bird that lives in the Great Plains and western states, which could allow for expanded oil and drilling.
The plan would remove protections on nearly 9 million acres of protected habitat.
The oil industry says any impacts minimal because of improved technology and more limited footprint needed for exploration.