Trump has climate change skeptics eager, scientists and green groups anxious – The San Diego Union-Tribune
Environmental groups and scientists are gripped with anxiety about the prospect of President-elect Donald Trump, who has denied the existence of climate change, slashing government money for climate research, gutting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s staffing and authority, and pulling out from international agreements to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.
On the other end, skeptics of climate change and those who believe the Obama administration has wrongly prioritized efforts to curb global warming at the expense of the U.S. economy are eyeing Trump’s presidential victory as a chance to give their views high-profile credence.From overhauling the Clean Air Act to de-funding the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, Trump’s critics fear nothing is off-limits for the unpredictable real estate tycoon as he works with a Republican-controlled congress. Hundreds of businesses — from Nike to Levi Strauss to Starbucks — as well as President Barack Obama and even China have publicly urged Trump to continue efforts to fight global warming and make good on the Paris climate deal.
“There’s more concern now than there was under the (George W.) Bush presidency,” said John Coequyt, director of federal and international climate campaigns for the Sierra Club. “This team doesn’t seem to be interested in even crafting business-friendly [climate] regulation. They’ve talked about extreme things like getting rid of the EPA.”
At the same time, more than two dozen states, scores of companies and some labor unions are pushing to overturn Obama’s signature climate-change policy, the Clean Power Plan. It’s something Trump also has vowed to do.
Backing Trump are groups such as the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute, which has rejected predictions that climate change will cause significant, widespread harm to the environment and economy.
“I think it’s going to be more cost-effective to adapt tomorrow than mitigate today,” said Isaac Orr, a research fellow at the Heartland Institute. “The [Trump] organization is going to be a lot different than what we’ve gotten used to over the last eight years.”
Environmental advocates are bracing for Trump’s decisions on a slate of major issues:
* The fate of the Clean Power Plan, which is tied up in federal court. It’s been estimated that the plan would guide the shuttering of hundreds of coal plants nationwide and help speed up the adoption of renewable energy.
* The Clean Air Act could face a radical reinterpretation as it relates to climate change. If the incoming administration and the GOP get their way, the act could no longer be used by environmental groups or the EPA to force businesses to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
* Trump has said he intends to walk away from pledges made at the United Nation’s climate talks in Paris. It’s unclear what the ripple effects would be from such a move, but many fear it would spell the end for the politically and economically tricky goal of globally coordinated efforts to slash carbon emissions.
* The president-elect also could try de-fund climate science by hollowing out staff and other resources at places such as the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meanwhile, the EPA might dramatically temper its approach to enforcing climate-related regulations and standards for both the public and private sectors.
* Trump could approve a significant expansion of leases for drilling of oil and natural gas on federal land. There’s been talk that he would reverse efforts by the Obama administration to rein in methane emissions associated with drilling, and the Keystone XL Pipeline project is expected to move forward during his tenure.
Trump could kill the Clean Power Plan, but it might not be easy, said Nathan Richardson, an attorney and a professor at the University of South Carolina’s law school who specializes in environmental law and economics.
“He can definitely do it,” Richardson said. “It’s not trivial, unless you can kill it quick by telling the D.C. [court] circuit to not even go through with the-rule making, or if the D.C. circuit rejects” the plan wholesale.
If the plan survives in federal court, Trump could withdraw the measure — and likely face lawsuits from the environmental community — or “mount a weak defense” as its opponents appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Richardson said.
Another option: Trump could have his overhauled EPA redraft the rules, which would likely take several years as the agency recirculates the document to the public and responds to feedback.
Perhaps the most radical way to reverse the plan would be for Congress to pass legislation that declares greenhouse-gas emissions aren’t subject to the Clean Air Act. After the Bush administration for years resisted having the EPA regulate greenhouse gases, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that such emissions qualified as air pollution under the act.
In recent years, several bills to strip climate emissions out of the landmark air-pollution law have passed both houses of Congress but were vetoed by Obama.
A more streamlined way for Trump to make an impact on the environment would be to permit new oil and natural gas drilling on federal land.
“If you just want a quick win and you want to count something in Trump’s column, then opening up oil and gas drilling would be the big contributor, not repealing the Clean Power Plan,” Richardson said.
The United Nations recently reported that without additional pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide — on top of commitments already made through past international agreements — global temperatures could rise by as much as 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit as compared to pre-industrial levels.
The polarizing effect of a Trump presidency will likely set back policy discussions about how to best curb emissions, said David Victor, a professor at UC San Diego’s school of global policy and strategy.