Climate / Environment

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This page includes information regarding Trump and the GOP Congress's agenda. This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.

How You Can Resist
How You Can Resist

"The battle we have fought, and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it. ... So we must count on watching and striving for these trees, and should always be glad to find anything so surely good and noble to strive for." John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.

Recent Updates

  • 11/7/17: Syria announced it would join the Paris Accords, leaving the US the only country in the world to not be part of the agreement [1]
  • 10/27/17: President Trump has decided to shrink 2 National Monuments in Utah - Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante [2]
  • 10/9/17: The Trump administration announced it would repeal the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 regulation that sharply curbed greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and a key part of President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy.[3]
  • 9/17/17: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump modify 10  national monuments, including shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites[4]
  • 8/24/17: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is asking President Trump to shrink “a handful” of national monuments that previous presidents designated to protect land and water.[5]
  • 7/6/17: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order requiring federal oil and gas lease sales be held in each state at least quarterly.[6] This order also speeds up the approval of permits to explore for oil and gas on federal land.[7]

Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Legislative Actions

Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice

  • S.161 would require NOAA to keep a project to improve hurricane forecasting.

  • H.R.2326 would establish a bipartisan National Climate Solutions Commission that will review economically viable actions/policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  • H.R.1784 would prohibit drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

Harmful Legislation

  • Trump signs a law repealing regulation by the SEC (as part of the Dodd-Frank Act) that require energy companies to show payments made to foreign governments.[8]

  • Trump signs a law to repeal the “stream protection rule.” This rule restricted coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways.[9]

  • The House voted to repeal a rule limiting methane venting and flaring by oil drilling operations on federal lands.[10] Unexpectedly, this bill was blocked in the Senate.[11]

  • H.R.861 would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • H.R.673 prohibits federal agency funds from being used for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

  • H.R.637 amends the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride pollution.

See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Federal Agencies and the Environment

US government agencies that manage the land and environment include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). NASA is sometimes involved as their satellite imagery is used monitor the impact of climate change across the globe.[12]

The Trump administration reversed course on nearly two dozen environmental rules, regulations and other Obama-era policies during his first 100 days in office. [13]

The Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by an executive order from President Nixon in 1970. The EPA was created to protect human health and the environment through regulations based on laws passed by Congress. For example, the agency: ensures safe drinking water for the public, has several projects to protect people from radiation, monitors air quality, regulates greenhouse gases (GHG) under the Clean Air Act, and more. Since water and air cross state borders, federal oversight from the EPA ensures that one city, state, or region cannot harm another by polluting part of a resource they control. For instance, the Mississippi River starts in Minnesota and drains into the Gulf of Mexico. If Illinois only had to follow their own state water regulations, polluters in that state could possibly dump chemicals and waste into the river that would then flow south into other states. The EPA enforces these national standards through fines, sanctions, and other measures.[14]

The EPA also tries to ensure that the burden of pollution does not fall on people who are already under-privileged. The EPA’s commitment to Environmental Justice ensures that:

  • everyone has the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards
  • everyone has equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.[15]

The EPA under President Trump

The Trump Administration thinks the EPA goes too far and that its regulations restrict economic progress.[16] President Trump signed an executive order in January 2017 that ordered a two-for-one repeal for all new regulations. A two-for-one repeal means that for every new regulation put in place, two would have to be removed.[17] President Trump's March 2017 Executive Order directed the EPA to review numerous Obama Administration rules, including the Clean Power Plan.[18] The Clean Power Plan tackled global warming by lowering carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants. It was a critical part in the US’s negotiations for the Paris Agreement. If the plan is stopped, the US would lose its main tool to cut greenhouse gas emissions. [19]

Under these executive orders, the EPA could lose its power to enforce pollution and emissions standards nation-wide.

President Trump's initial budget proposed a 31% cut to the EPA's budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. It also proposed cutting a quarter of the agency's jobs. [20] The budget finally approved by the House and Senate, however, cut the EPA's budget by only 1%.[21]

The Trump administration announced on October 9th that it would repeal the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 regulation that sharply curbed greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and was a key part of President Obama’s environmental legacy.[22]

The EPA under Scott Pruitt

President Trump appointed Scott Pruitt to serve as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt was confirmed by a Senate vote of 52–46.

While serving as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times. He is known to be a climate change denier. He left a written Senate comment after his confirmation hearing that “over the past two decades satellite data indicates there has been a leveling off of warming.” [23] Scientists disagree with this claim. [24][25] Pruitt does not believe that the release of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas, is one of the main contributors to global warming.[26] This is in direct disagreement with the EPA's own website.[27] Since Pruitt's confirmation, the EPA has removed other references to climate change and various links to key EPA climate change reports from its website. This includes a web page that declared that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.”

In March 2017, Pruitt's EPA rejected an Obama administration ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that has been linked to developmental problems in children.[28] In June, seven state Attorney Generals sued the EPA for rejecting the ban.[29]

On May 31, 2017, the EPA issued a 90-day "stay of agency" for an Obama-era rule that was designed to limit methane leaks at drilling sites, as well as rules setting standards for equipment and employee certification. Methane is the second most common greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide. Though it only lasts in the atmosphere for 20 years (carbon dioxide can last for 200 years), methane holds 84 times the amount of heat as carbon dioxide. The EPA expects to prepare a proposed rule and launch a public comment period after the stay. Environmental groups have sued over the decision to reconsider the methane rules.[30] The rules were meant to go into effect on June 3, 2017. On July 3, 2017, a federal appeals court ruled that the EPA cannot halt the rule.[31]

On the same day that President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an internal memo went out to EPA employees, initiating a buyout program to reduce employee numbers. [32] Scott Pruitt had called the Paris agreement a "bad deal for this country," saying that the deal puts the US at "an economic disadvantage." [33]

Scott Pruitt has indicated he would like for climate science to be scrutinized in what's called a “red team-blue team” exercise (born out of military tactic analysis.) Essentially, a "red team" would write a critique that questions the scientific consensus that climate change is related to human activity. A "blue team" would write a rebuttal to that critique. A commission would review the public back and forth, as opposed to the peer review process that almost all real scientific analysis currently undergoes.[34] The concern is that such an exercise would legitimize climate deniers.

Legislation Affecting the EPA

  • H.R.637 - Would amend the Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide and other gasses.[35]
  • H.R.861 - Would abolish the EPA at the end of 2018.[36]
  • H.R.1179 - Would amend the Clean Water Act (CWA) to streamline the permitting process and hold special interest groups, including the EPA, accountable for filing "frivolous" lawsuits. Most permits come from the Army Corp of Engineers, but the EPA can deny those permits.[37]
  • H.R.1430 - Would prohibit the EPA from writing any regulation that uses science that is not publicly available. The bill would also require that any scientific studies be repeatable. While this may not sound bad, that means that research done on one-time events like oil spills would not be allowed to influence regulations. This bill passed the House 228-194. [38]

The Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the Department of the Interior that is responsible for more than 247.3 million acres of public lands. The BLM is also responsible for 700 million acres of underground minerals beneath federal, state and private lands. This means that the land can be owned privately, but minerals like coal that are found under the surface belong to the federal government. Owning what is underneath the land is known as “mineral rights.”

The mission of the BLM is "to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." They manage livestock grazing, mining, coal leases, recreation, timberlands, wild horse management, and more. Under Trump’s proposed budget, the BLM would have had to slaughter or sell wild horses to compensate for budget cuts.[39]

The BLM recently announced it will not move forward with a plan to lease land outside of Zion National Park for oil and gas development.[40] However, Interior Department data shows that oil production on federal land increased by 77% between 2008 and 2015.[41] In 2015, oil from federal lands produced 455,000 barrels daily (out of 9.4 billion barrels total) and gas production from federal lands was 3.2 billion cubic feet (out of 28.7 billion cubic feet total).[42] On July 6th, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order requiring federal oil and gas lease sales be held in each state at least quarterly[43] and speed up the approval of permits to explore for oil and gas on federal land.[44]

Legislation Affecting the BLM

  • S.750 - Known as the Keep It in the Ground Act, this would prohibit the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) from allowing for the exploration or production of fossil fuels in the Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or any other area of the Outer Continental Shelf. The BLM would not be allowed to issue a lease for the exploration or production of any onshore fossil fuels.[45]

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce that focuses on the oceans and the atmosphere. They monitor dangerous weather (the National Weather Service), chart the seas, develop guidelines for the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources (such as monitoring fish levels), and conduct research that impacts the overall care of the environment.

Under Trump’s initial budget, the agency’s budget would be cut by 16%. Many programs designed to deal with severe weather and communicate with the public would be terminated.[46]

NOAA Under President Trump

  • Hurricane season is beginning in the US, but President Trump has not yet appointed a permanent NOAA administrator.[47]
  • Right now, NOAA is seeking public comments on a proposal that would allow companies to “incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals” as they look for energy sources, like oil, under the sea floor.[48] This is part of President Trump’s executive order to develop an off-shore energy plan.[49] Companies searching for oil and other energy sources often use "seismic air guns" that can can harm marine mammals. Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council are concerned about the impact on marine mammals. These seismic air guns could hurt or kill marine animals.[50] Seismic air guns also cause a decrease in zooplankton and krill larvae.[51]

The National Park Service

The public parks system is one of the few governmental agencies that is actually liked by the American people. In 2015, Pew Research found that 74% of Americans hold a favorable view of the National Park Service.[52] A record-setting 330 million people visited national parks in 2016, the NPS's centennial year.[53]

The National Park Service (NPS) manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other designated conservation and historical properties. The NPS is charged with the dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the land while also making it available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.

Land can be designated and protected by an act of Congress. The President signs the act into law. In addition, the Antiquities Act allows the president to designate and protect areas as National Monuments by executive order.

According to a 2011 Michigan State University report prepared for the NPS, for each $1 invested in the NPS, the American public receives $4 in economic value. Much of this revenue goes directly to communities within 60 miles of a park. [54]

Legislation Affecting the NPS

  • H.J.Res.46 – Would remove the National Park Service’s authority to manage private drilling for oil, gas and minerals in 40 national parks.[55] The NPS controls the surface of the land, but under something known as 9B rules, they can also refuse drilling rights to parties that own any resources (like natural gas) beneath the surface if the operation would pose an environmental threat.[56]
  • S.751 – Would provide dedicated annual federal funding to national park deferred maintenance needs. The NPS needs nearly $12 billion to fix all items on the deferred maintenance list. [57]
  • H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act — Would require NPS to use volunteer hunters to reduce wildlife populations unless a state gives the agency permission not to do so. The act would remove NPS's responsibility to set reasonable limits on fishing.[58]
  • 9/12/17: An appeals court granted a request from the Trump administration to halt an Obama-era plan for new pollution controls at Utah's oldest coal-fired power plants. The plan had been aimed at reducing haze near national parks.[59]

U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands. Their objectives include:[60]

  • Advocating a conservation ethic in promoting the health, productivity, diversity, and beauty of forests and associated lands.
  • Developing and providing scientific and technical knowledge aimed at improving our capability to protect, manage, and use forests and rangelands.
  • Protecting and managing the National Forests and Grasslands so they best demonstrate the sustainable multiple-use management concept.

Legislation Affecting the U.S. Forest Service

  • H.R. 622 - Would allow the individual states, not the BLM or Forest Service Law Enforcement, to maintain law and order on federal land.[61]

Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is part of the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1979 to coordinate the federal response to a disaster that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. This includes hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and more.

As hurricane season begins as of June 1st in the US, President Trump has yet to appoint a permanent FEMA administrator.[62]

Public Lands

The Outdoor Industry Association has estimated the outdoor recreation economy generates over $887 billion in consumer spending and creates 7.6 million jobs.[63] They believe "Our public lands and waters represent the best of America to the rest of the world." [64]

The House recently changed the valuation methods for federal lands, making it easier to sell these lands to states, even if a handover provides no measurable benefit to taxpayers.[65] Efforts to give away or sell off land to states make it more likely that this land will then be sold to private companies, often for the purpose of extracting fossil fuels. The EPA has also withdrawn a 2016 request for information about methane pollution from the oil and gas industry.[66] As a result of the EPA's withdrawal, industry will not have to provide the government with information about methane and other harmful emissions as requested by the Obama Administration.

National Monuments

On April 26, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order[67] instructing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review any national monument created since January 1, 1996, that is least 100,000 acres.[68] The Executive Order affects​ 25 existing national monuments, mostly those created under President Clinton and President Obama.

One of the most politicized monuments is Bears Ears in Utah, which was designated by President Obama in the final days of his administration.[69] Five Native American tribes pushed to create the Bears Ears monument to protect ancestral land. On June 12th, Secretary Zinke recommended reducing the portion of protected lands at Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument.[70]

On August 24th, Secretary Zinke said he's asking President Trump to shrink “a handful” of national monuments that previous presidents designated to protect land and water. He will not ask the president to eliminate any of the 27 protected areas that were under review since April's executive order.[71] Later in September, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that President Trump modify 10  national monuments, including shrinking Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou, as well as two marine national monuments, the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll.[72]

On October 27th, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said Trump called him to say that he would shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. [73]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends lifting a 20-year ban on mining for uranium in the Grand Canyon watershed. The report is one of several requested by Trump’s “energy independence” executive order, which directed all agencies to identify regulations that potentially “burden” fossil fuel development.[74]

Climate Change

The term "climate change" is often used interchangeably with that of "global warming." Global warming is a type of climate change caused by human actions, as opposed to natural warming or cooling over long periods of time. The scientific consensus on climate change is, "that climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities,"[75] and that it "is largely irreversible."[76] In fact, ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.[77]

While 70% of Americans believe climate change is happening, only 13 percent know that more than 90% of all climate scientists agree that climate change is real. Most Americans polled believe there was only a 50% consensus among the scientific community. [78]


One of the biggest causes of global warming is the increase in carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide is released during fossil fuel combustion (known as emissions). Deforestation, ozone depletion, and other factors also increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

When fossil fuels like coal are burned, gases are released into the atmosphere. The four main gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons. They are also called greenhouse gasses (GhG).[79] These gases become trapped in the Earth's atmosphere and build up over time. It can take decades or even centuries for the gases to disappear naturally.[80] These greenhouse gasses trap heat from the sun that would normally escape our atmosphere. This increase in trapped heat then creates global warming.[81]

The United States gets 84% of its energy from fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas.[82] Coal-fired and natural gas power plans account for one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.[83] Over the past 20 years, nearly three-fourths of all human-caused carbon emissions came from the burning of fossil fuels. [84]

Carbon dioxide made up 81 percent of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.[85] Cities account for up to 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and many are already experiencing major levels of pollution.[86]

The Carbon Majors Report found that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are the worst offenders.[87]

Fossil Fuels

Coal is the largest domestic source of energy in America (much of our oil comes from other countries) and is used to generate about 30% of our electricity.[88] 5 states produce over 70% of the coal in the US.

If fossil fuels are mined and extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, global average temperatures could rise by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.[89]

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke ended the moratorium on federal coal leases [90] that was put in place during the Obama Administration.[91] This freeze would not allow new leases on federally-owned land. It was part of a review process that would determine how to charge mining companies more to account for the climate costs of the coal they took.

The White House is pushing to use the UN's Green Climate Fund, which the US has contributed $1 billion to as part of the Paris agreement, for more "clean coal" power plants around the world. This fund was meant to help poorer countries brace for the impacts of climate change.[92] The US has a seat on the Green Climate Fund board because of contributions made under President Obama, but projects are voted on by the entire board, making it unlikey that such a project would move forward.[93]


Melting ice and a warming ocean mean more water and a rising sea level. This leaves coastal regions more vulnerable to flooding, storm surges, and salt water seeping into freshwater supplies.

Increases in temperature lead to other phenomena like droughts, typhoons, hurricanes[94], wildfires, and dramatic habitat changes. As water and food become scarce, the massive migration of humans (and animals) puts new stress on other ecosystems. The Pentagon released a threat assessment last year about global warming as a security risk because it, "degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations" [95]. Rising sea levels can also cause massive population shifts known as "climate refugees." [96]

The effects of climate change can actually become causes of climate change. For instance, as the polar ice caps melt (due to rising temperatures), they stop cooling the poles. The less ice at the poles, the faster global warming will occur. The melted ice caps turn into sea water, causing ocean levels to rise around the world. Research has shown that West Antarctica is on the brink of a melt that could push seas up to 13 feet higher over the next few centuries.[97]

National Security

The Pentagon released a threat assessment last year about global warming as a security risk because it, "degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations." [98]. Rising sea levels can also cause massive population shifts known as "climate refugees" [99].


  • The Earth’s temperature has risen 1.4°F since the early 20th Century[100]
  • 16 of the 17 warmest years in a 136-year record all have occurred since 2001.[101]
  • Extreme climate events have been rising for the last four decades.[]
  • Glaciers are considered among the most sensitive indicators of climate change. A world glacier inventory has been compiled since the 1970s[102], tracking more than 100,000 glaciers. Glaciers worldwide have been found to be shrinking significantly, especially since the 1980s.
  • Artic sea ice, frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface, is also used as evidence for rapid climate change. Satellite data from NASA shows that Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 13.3 percent per decade.[103]
  • Global sea level has risen approximately 1.7 millimeters/year over the past 100 years, which is significantly larger than the average rate over the last several thousand years.[]
  • As glaciers, sea ice, and land ice melts (and doesn't re-freeze), the sea level rises. Sea water also expands as it warms, raising levels even higher.[104] 71% of the world’s population might be exposed to rising sea levels by 2025.[105]
  • Warm air carries more water than colder air, leading to bigger storms. Extreme rainstorms are up more than a third since the early 1980s.[106]

Responding to Climate Change

President Trump, and most of the GOP members of Congress, do not take climate science seriously. [107] President Trump has called global warming a "hoax" that was "created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive."[108] In his speech regarding his decision to leave the Paris Agreement, President Trump expressed his belief that there is a trade-off between protecting the environment and economic growth. He argued the agreement cost the US trillions of dollars, killed jobs, and stymied economic growth.[109] UN Ambassador Nikki Haley claims that President Trump believes global warming is real, but he has yet to state this publicly. [110] Critics say President Trump invents and pushes conspiracy theories about climate change.

The new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, does not believe climate change is a hoax, but he has defended the need for expanded oil, gas, and coal production. He agrees that humans have had an influence on global warming, but he claims that "there's debate" over the extent of that influence. [111]

Vice-President Pence has claimed, "For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world...It’s long been a goal of the liberal left in this country to advance a climate change agenda.” [112]

Michigan GOP Rep. Tim Walberg claimed that if climate change were a real problem, God would take care of it.[113]

In June 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt left a meeting of G7 environmental ministers in Italy a day early. The US was the only nation represented to not sign a joint statement on climate change. [114] The remaining six nations ;  Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom , reiterated their commitment to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming.[115]

Paris Agreement

In 2015, nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Agreement. The agreement is non-binding and lets each nation decide how exactly it will meet its goal. Countries who meet their emission reduction goals would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions across the world to 56 gigatons in 2030.[116] The Paris Agreement led to a 70% increase in the number of cities across the globe that released their climate data, and cities including Copenhagen, Melbourne and Stockholm plan to become completely carbon neutral.

President Trump announced on June 1, 2017, that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement.[117]. One of his main complaints about the Paris climate agreement was a $3 billion pledge made to the Green Climate Fund. Like many other claims (such as NATO defense costs), Trump has argued that it's a "bad deal" for Americans and that we pay too much. President Obama contributed $1 billion before he left office, but Trump has said the US will stop future payments to the fund.[118]

As of November 7th, 2017, the US is the only country in the world to not sign the Paris Agreement[119].

Highlights from this agreement include[120]:

  • Keeping the increase in the average global temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and trying to keep the temperature increase to only 1.5°C
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and sustainably managing forests and increasing forest carbon stocks in developing countries
  • Taking the lead in climate finance (giving developing countries financial help to deal with climate change)
  • Increased transparency
  • Decreasing and dealing with damage resulting from climate change (including flooding, droughts, severe weather, famines)

During his first trip overseas, President Trump met with the leaders of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US), who tried to convince him to remain in the Paris Agreement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Trump that if the US, the world's largest economy, leaves, China would become the most important player.[121]

At the G20 Conference in Germany (a meeting of 20 of the largest economies in the world), 19 of the 20 members reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement. The US is the one country in the G20 that is no longer a part of the agreement. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin has called climate change a "major issue."[122]

Paris Agreement Withdrawal

By stating an intention to withdraw, US officials have given up their seat at the discussion table, effective immediately. Conversations to stop climate change will continue, but the US has given up its chance to be part of future decisions [123].

The withdrawal will not be complete until November 2020.

Trump has signaled to global leaders that he could be open to finding a way to remain a part of the agreement as long as he believes US is getting a "better deal."[124]

National Response

In the wake of President Trump's announcement, the governors of California, Washington and New York formed an alliance aimed at meeting the US climate goals. They are calling themselves the United States Climate Alliance. Combined, the three states make up about a fifth of US population and GDP. They also produced 11% of US carbon emissions in 2014.[125] Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon, Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota, Delaware and Puerto Rico have also joined.[126] Massachusetts and Vermont have Republican governors, making this a bipartisan alliance. [127]

Hawaii has become the first state to ratify a state law that aligns with the Paris agreement after Governor David Ige signed two bills into law.[128]

California's Governor, Jerry Brown, signed an agreement with China directly, promising to work together on reducing emissions. This move sidestepped President Trump and brought China, the world's second largest economy, together with California, the world's sixth largest economy.[129] California has also joined with Germany to back the work of the "Under 2 Coalition," which includes cities, regional governments and states.[130] Germany has Europe's largest economy and has promised to ensure that cities and communities play an important role in the U.N. climate change conference in Bonn in November 2017.

300 US mayors from different political parties, known as the Climate Mayors, have agreed that their cities will adopt, honor, and uphold commitments to the Paris Agreement.[131] At the United States Conference of Mayors, they pledged to run their cities 100% with renewable energy, like wind or solar, by 2035.[132] Over a thousand governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the US have declared that they will continue to support climate action to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.[133]

Bloomberg founder and CEO Michael Bloomberg offered to make up the $15 million in funding that the U.N. stands to lose from the US's withdrawal. [134]

The CEOs of Tesla and Disney quit the President's advisory councils in response to the withdrawal. [135] Other CEOs and tech leaders shared their disappointment[136], as many of them had publically urged President Trump[137] to stay with the agreement. Many large companies even took our full page ads in the New York Post, New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal declaring their support for the agreement.[138]

David Rank, the acting US ambassador to China, resigned because of the decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.[139]

International Relations

European, Chinese, and Indian leaders have agreed to carry on climate change discussions with or without the US. China, especially, will fill the “leadership vacuum” left by the US. [140]. In recent years, China has become the world leader in renewable power development.China is the world’s largest user of coal (and largest producer of greenhouse gases), but the government has cancelled the construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants and plans to invest $360 billion in green energy projects. [141]

In a rare joint statement, leaders from Italy, France, and Germany said that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, contrary to President Trump's claims. [142]

At the UN's first ocean conference in June 2017,[143], Bolivian President Evo Morales claimed President's Trump decision to leave the agreement has made the US "the main threat to Mother Earth and to life itself.”[144]

Executive Orders

On February 24th, President Trump signed an executive order "to lower regulatory burdens on the American people by implementing and enforcing regulatory reform."[145] The EPA’s Regulatory Reform Task Force is looking for rules to consider changing, replacing, or reversing. The agency opened this effort up for public comments, which closed on May 15, 2017. Over 300,000 comments were submitted.[146]

In late March 2017, President Trump signed another executive order that seeks to roll back the Obama Administration's efforts to fight climate change. [147][148] Specifically, the order directs the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan, a rule that cuts carbon pollution from power plants, and directs the EPA and Interior Department to review the agencies' rules concerning methane emissions and fracking on federal lands.[149] Methane has a greater heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide.
Under the March 2017 executive order, U.S. climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions will remain far above the levels needed to meet the country's promise to the United Nations.

The executive order also tells agencies to stop considering climate change when creating new (or repealing old) regulations.[150] Agencies look at the cost of laws and executive actions. This order mandates that agencies are no longer required to include the "social cost of carbon" in these numbers. This is a metric that puts a price on the damage caused by carbon pollution. The order also rolls back a previous White House directive that required agencies to consider climate change when proposing energy and infrastructure projects under the National Environmental Policy Act. Finally, the order directs the Interior Department to allow coal leasing on federal lands and rescinds the Obama Administration's broad strategy documents on climate change.

Since it is aimed at the actions of federal agencies like the EPA, much of the executive order's effects are subject to a long rule-making process, which includes a public comment period.

Clean and Green Efforts

Clean Energy

President Trump does not support wind energy, citing aesthetic and wildlife concerns. [151]

A 2015 study found that fossil fuel companies could waste more than $2 trillion over the next ten years by pursuing coal, oil and gas projects. Thanks to international action on climate change and advances in renewable energy, these projects could ultimately become worthless.[152] American workers risk losing jobs to European nations and China as these countries continue to invest in renewable energy and the U.S. does not [153].

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said that the coal industry has grown by 50,000 jobs under President Trump.[154] However, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total of jobs in the coal mining industry is just 51,000. This makes Pruitt's claim nearly impossible.[155] According to a 2016 report from the US Department of Energy, 374,000 people are employed by the solar energy industry. Coal, gas and oil power generation (energy created from fossil fuels) employed only 187,000.[156]

Clean Water

Trump has issued an executive order directing agencies to review the Waters of the United States rule, which protects wetlands and small streams from agricultural and development interests.[157] The order has reignited a debate about what falls within the scope of the Clean Water Act.

On June 27, 2017, the EPA proposed to undo an Obama regulation, the Clean Water Rule, that gave the federal government control over small waterways (like ponds and wetlands that drain into larger bodies of water) so they could control pollution control. This is one of the regulations that President Trump asked Secretary Pruitt to review and consider repealing.[158]

Flint Water Crisis

The water crisis began in 2014 when Flint, Michigan, switched to using the Flint River as its source of drinking water. Due to poor water treatment, over 100,000 residents were possibly exposed to high levels of lead in the water. A citywide public health state of emergency was declared in December 2015. Federal testimony revealed that the EPA, state, and municipal officials attempted to fix the situation behind the scenes and did not tell the public that it was dangerous to drink the water.

President Donald Trump's federal infrastructure plan contains no specific proposal or funding for the crisis in Flint, which is ongoing.[159]

Clean Air

The Clean Air Act is one of the first and most influential modern environmental laws in the United States. It is one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world. The EPA began regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs), which contribute to global warming, under the Clean Air Act for the first time on January 2, 2011.

Worldwide, 11–14% of children show asthma symptoms. An estimated 44% of these are related to environmental exposures. This is partially attributed to pollen growth, which is encouraged by the warmer temperatures associated with global warming.[160]

On June 6, 2017, the Trump administration put a one-year delay on implementation of an air pollution rule from the Obama administration. This regulation lowered the amount of allowed ozone (smog, partially caused by burning fossil fuels) in the air.[161] Too much exposure to smog can make it hard to breathe, aggravate asthma, and damage your lungs. [162]

In early July, an appeals court struck down the EPA's 90-day suspension of new emission standards on oil and gas wells. The Obama-era rule had imposed the first-ever federal limits on methane leaks from new or modified oil and natural-gas wells. The EPA had projected that the rule would prevent 11 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions by 2025. The court concluded that the EPA had the right to reconsider the rule, but could not delay the original implementation date while trying to rewrite the regulation.[163]

Fighting Back

San Francisco and Oakland are suing some of the world’s largest oil companies, in an effort to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for damages associated with rising sea levels. The San Francisco suit claims that the extraction and development of fossil fuels led to a significant increase in global warming, which melted ice caps and caused the sea to rise. This resulted in the rise of ocean levels nearly eight inches in California over the past century.[164] The suit claims that the fossil fuel industry knew the effects of their work.

Ensuring Environmental Justice

If we do not address climate change and protect the environment, some people will be hurt more than others. Environmental justice (EJ) is the idea that risks should be shared equally. The EPA states that this "will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards".[165]. The EPA focuses on EJ issues in different ways. They try to map out pollution and health risks across the country. This helps show who is being hurt by pollution. They also try to ensure equal access to clean water. The EPA also gives funds to communities that are badly affected by pollution sources. Communities of color and other historically low-income populations are most likely to live close to polluted air and water. Some of the sources of pollution include industrial sites, freeways, oil refineries, and power plants that burn fossil fuels.[166] If the government changes how it gives permits for these things, or stops enforcing the rules, it could make pollution much worse. These kinds of changes are often proposed as "business-friendly" approaches. A document obtained by the Washington Post suggests that the EPA's office of environmental justice will be eliminated and “any future EJ specific policy work can be transferred to the Office of Policy”. The proposed budget confirms this. [167][168]

Without a real EJ policy, the same communities will continue to bear the brunt of the nation's pollution. People in these communities die younger on average. They are also more likely to suffer from asthma, some forms of cancer, and dementia.[169][170][171] These communities will also bear the worst effects of climate change. See the State and Local Pages for state-by-state pollution burdens.

The current Congress is unlikely to tackle EJ problems like Flint, Michigan's water supply or the Standing Rock Sioux Nation's objection to the Dakota Access Pipeline. These problems are not expected to be a federal priority. Most responsibility could shift to states, foundations, and nonprofits. This was the case during the Bush years. [172]

Even with a regional approach, disaster can strike. For example, a lack of oversight by the EPA's Region 5 office helped start the Flint Water Crisis.[173] Before Hurricane Harvey, Chevron Phillips told the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that it expects to exceed permitted limits for several hazardous pollutants. Meanwhile, the TCEQ shut down all of its air quality monitors in the Houston area in advance of the storm, meaning no data will be collected on which and how many pollutants are actually released.[174] Communities of color are typically more likely to live near such sites.

On a global level, EJ issues displace millions, particularly those who already live in delicate ecosystems. 24 million people in 118 countries were displaced by natural disasters in 2016, which is three times as many people as were displaced by conflict. [175] Drought, flooding, famine and other extreme weather conditions contribute to this displacement.

Dakota Access Pipeline

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) announced their plan to build a $3.78 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline in 2015. This project was called the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The purpose of the pipeline is to transfer oil from the Bakken Formation to refineries in Patoka, Illinois.[176][177][178][179] The pipeline is estimated to transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day.[180] ETP promised that this is domestic oil would also be refined in the United States, but there is no obligation to do so.[181][182]

Donald Trump has had investments in Energy Transfer Partners. He issued a statement that he sold his stock this summer but has not released financial disclosures.[183] ETP CEO Kelcy Warren gave $100,000 to the Trump campaign.[184]

DAPL was first planned to cross the Missouri River above Bismarck, North Dakota. This route was scrapped due to risks to the drinking water supply of Bismarck.[185] ETP rerouted the pipeline to cross the Missouri on what it and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) argue is federal land.[186][187] The federal government, represented by USACE, was required to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) to test the safety of more than 200 large water crossings. They were also supposed to collect public comments before issuing a decision on whether a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) was required before issuing permits and easements (i.e. permission to cross property owned by someone else). [188][189][190] Part of this vetting process also included requirements for tribal involvement as laid out in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).[191] On July 25, 2016, USACE determined an EIS was not required (though it still required an easement).[192]

The USACE states that "No federal agency has jurisdiction over oil pipelines", even those that cross state lines. [193] This means that there is no single process for permits. It's common for pipeline projects to use eminent domain, where the government takes private property for public use (with compensation to the owner). This occurred with DAPL.[194] South Dakota was the first to grant permits for DAPL, in early December 2015.[195][196] North Dakota granted its permit on Jan 20, 2016, despite the objections of landowners.[197][198] Iowa granted DAPL easement on Mar 10, 2016, also over the objections of landowners.[199][200] Similar objections to the price and to the use of eminent domain occurred in Illinois.[201]

On June 14, 2017, a federal judge ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately consider the possible impacts of an oil spill where the pipeline passes under the Missouri River. The judge said the army must redo its environmental analysis in certain sections of the pipeline and may have to halt operations (it has started shipping oil) in the meantime.[202]

Vulnerabilities in Their Strategy
Weaknesses in Republicans' Plan

Most Americans oppose President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. A majority say the move will damage the United States’ global leadership.[203] The decision was also met with disappointment from US allies around the world.

The Republicans' energy and environmental plans have two main weaknesses. First, investing in fossil fuels may not be a good idea in the long term. Coal and gas prices are decreasing for now, and wind and solar energy are getting even cheaper to produce and install. (Wind turbines were 66% cheaper and solar panels were 85% cheaper in 2016 than they were in 2009.) Economically, renewable energy is becoming a better option.[204]

China is leading investment in renewable sources and will probably get large returns on its investments as the world switches to these sources. If the Trump administration does not respond to this transition, the US will end up with a smaller market share of the global energy sector. For example, Volvo will be producing only hybrid/electric cars by 2019—it is the first major carmaker to make this decision.[205] France announced that they will end the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2040 in order to reach their emissions targets under the Paris agreement.[206] France is the leading manufacturer of electric vehicles sold in Europe. One report projected that within 20 years, that sales of electric vehicles in the US would overtake gas and diesel vehicles.[207]

The second problem with the Republicans' plan is that public opinion—both among scientists and the general public—is in favor of climate action and investment in clean energy. Almost 70% of registered voters say the United States should participate in the Paris Agreement. Two-thirds think the country should cut its emissions.[208] The majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats support a carbon tax whose profits would fund research into renewable energy.[209] 70% of registered voters support the core policies of the Clean Power Plan.[210]

Pew Research found that 2/3 of Americans think it is more important to develop alternative fuel sources (like wind or solar) over fossil fuels.[211]

More and more Americans believe in climate change, meaning that the Republican party is going against public opinion. Over the past two years, the proportion of US adults who believe in and are worried about global warming has increased. 68% of US adults now believe that global warming is caused by humans (compared to 55% in 2015), and 45% say they worry a lot about global warming (up from 32% in 2015).[212]