Under the Trump administration, the dream of a sustainable future seems more distant than ever.
Even as scientists intensify their warnings about the consequences of ignoring the climate crisis, Trump seems determined not to follow their advice. If anything, he’s trying to do the opposite of what experts recommend.
Here are seven major ways that Trump is hurting our hopes of an environmentally sustainable future:
1. He’s protecting Tyson Foods—at the expense of its workers and our planet
On April 28, Trump finally used the Defense Production Act, which lets him order private companies to turn their operations to things that support national defenses.
But Trump didn’t use his power to make corporations produce PPE or ventilators. Instead, he designated meat processing plants as “critical infrastructure” and ordered them to stay open. Worse, he’s also planning to protect the plants’ owners from legal liability if their workers claim that they aren’t being properly protected.
Trump’s actions come after Tyson Foods warned that the food supply chain could falter if plants closed due to coronavirus concerns. Three Tyson employees in Georgia have died from coronavirus, and two died in their recently-closed Iowa plant.
Trump’s order endangers thousands of workers in the meat industry. It’s also an example of him prioritizing corporate profits over the planet.
After a campaign demanding that they stop this pollution, Tyson responded with vague promises to improve their farming practices. But hey, now they don’t have to regard environmental safety or their workers’ safety. Thanks, Trump.
Check out what former Fox News contributor Carl Cameron has to say about how Trump is ignoring the “COVID-19 incubators” that meat processing plants have become.
Trump’s solution is, as one columnist called it, essentially “socialism for the ultra-rich.” Rather than let the free market put an end to companies that are killing the environment, Trump plans to invest taxpayer dollars to keep them afloat.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Trump could put whatever money he gives to oil companies towards a Green New Deal, or some other economic stimulus package that prioritizes a sustainable future. But why would he do that, when he could support the ultra-rich instead?
3. He rolls back environmental regulations like it is his job
Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Trump hates any sort of regulations. That’s the whole reasoning behind his asinine order that federal agencies have to find two regulations that could be repealed before they can implement a new regulation.
But he especially hates environmental regulations. How much? Well, the New York Timeshas a list of 95 rules that he’s gotten rid of, or tried to get rid of, while in office. And it hasn’t been updated since December, so you can bet that the actual number of environmental protections that have met their demise because of him is much longer.
Some of the highlights:
He weakened a rule designed to protect national parks from air pollution.
He reversed a rule that forbade drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
He’s made it so people are largely no longer responsible if they do something that results in the deaths of migratory birds.
And that’s just a drop in the bucket. Years of policies designed to protect the environment, all gone on Trump’s whims.
4. Another recipient of his bailouts: the airline industry
Flickr / Aero Icarus
Trump’s administration plans to give $25 billion to airlines impacted by coronavirus. About 70% of that money will be grants that don’t need to be paid back.
On the surface, it seems good that Trump is working to prevent layoffs of pilots, flight attendants, and other ordinary Americans affected by the virus.
But the fact is that airlines are awful for the environment. All planes require an immense amount of energy to get to a minimum altitude, so even short flights have outsized environmental impacts. In fact, a single flight often generates a larger carbon footprint than someone in a developing country does all year. Planes also release nitrous gases, sulfates, and other particles that contribute to climate change.
In the UK, liberal democrats have suggested that airlines should only receive bailouts if they do more to address the climate crisis. Although The Guardian argues that “the only meaningful reform is fewer flights,” it would still be nice to see something like this in the States. But as long as Trump is POTUS, don’t expect the bailouts to come with environmental strings attached—especially given that many of the airlines getting money donated to Trump’s reelection campaign.
5. He withdrew from the Paris climate agreement
Yeah, you’ve probably heard this one before. But it’s worth reiterating: Trump removed the US from an agreement signed by every other country in the world. Every single nation besides the US is trying to limit the rise of global temperatures. Everyone else is committed to trying to build a sustainable future—but thanks to Trump, the US will officially exit the deal right after the November 2020 election. That’s American exceptionalism for you.
6. He wants to mine for uranium… right next to the Grand Canyon
Flickr / herdiephoto
The Grand Canyon is probably the US’s most iconic national treasures. So you’d think that Trump would want to preserve that, right?
No. He wants to start uranium mining on plateaus in the northern part of the Grand Canyon. Mining in that area has been banned since 2012 because of the immense water and air pollution that it caused.
Trump’s new plan doesn’t just risk the ecosystem of the Grand Canyon. It’s also a threat to the Indigenous people of the area, including the Havasupai, who have long protested uranium mining on their land.
While nuclear power can help with reducing carbon emissions, it isn’t worth the cost if it comes at the expense of polluting and destroying the very environment it’s supposed to save.
7. He encourages climate misinformation
Trump and his allies have consistently ignored that climate change is a scientific fact. Long before he was president, Trump claimed that climate change was a Chinese hoax:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
And that was just the start of his war on facts. He picked Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, even though Pruitt claimed that “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind”-a statement that belies how 97% of scientists agree that human activity has impacted the climate.
He again insinuated that climate change wasn’t real because cold weather still happens:
Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?
And more recently, the New York Times reported that under Trump, the Interior Department has started inserting language into its reports that implies that there isn’t a scientific consensus on global warming. They’ve also released reports erroneously suggesting that rising levels of carbon dioxide could benefit agriculture. The changes came from a longtime Interior Department employee who was abruptly promoted near the start of Trump’s presidency.
By spreading misinformation, Trump downplays the very real effects of climate change. He tries to confuse people and keep them complacent.
After all, people can’t fight for a sustainable future if they’re unable to identify present-day problems. And Trump doesn’t care about the future of our planet, as long as he and his rich friends are still holding on to all of their power.