We are all aboard for a new and potentially challenging journey for America and the planet. With Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, it seems like all that can be agreed upon is that things are going to be very different for the next four years.
After the White House’s first busy months, we are all waiting with bated breath to see his policy changes and their results. Will Trump “make America great again,” or will his changes come with dire consequences, intended or not? As an NYC-based real estate entrepreneur myself, it will certainly be interesting to see how things unfold.
One of the big issues in America—though not necessarily for the Trump administration—is climate change, and for New York, this could ultimately be the difference between dry, sturdy coastal developments and severe flood damage. For others, like Trump, energy independence takes priority for its ability to provide jobs and reduce dependence on foreign resources.
It’s no surprise, then, that everyone from oil executives to environmentalists will have a stake in Donald Trump’s plan for energy independence. So I’ve taken it upon myself to boil down what exactly what the plan is, and what it could mean for climate change.
The Energy Plan
On March 28, Donald Trump signed an executive order that, among other things, initiated a review of the Clean Power Plan, rescinded a moratorium on coal mining on US federal lands, urged federal agencies to identify “identify all regulations, all rules, all policies … that serve as obstacles and impediments to American energy independence,” and rescinded at least six Obama-era executive orders aimed at curbing climate change.
As new details and initiatives emerge, one thing is certain: The Trump Administration is committed to unleashing the potential of American energy. For Trump, American energy dominance is a “strategic economic and foreign policy goal.”
Here’s what else we know at the moment about what the Trump administration aims to do:
- Eliminate burdensome regulations on America’s energy industry, like the Waters of the U.S. Rule and Climate Action Plan. The administration claims this alone will increase wages by more than $30 billion over 7 years.
- Embrace the shale oil and gas revolution, allowing America to tap into its $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves.
- Revive the coal industry while remaining committed to developing and using “clean” coal technology.
- Lower energy costs for Americans and maximize use of the country’s resources.
- Free America from dependence on foreign oil.
According to the White House, better energy policies will stimulate the economy and bring vast new wealth to the people. They will ensure our national security and protect our health. Only time will tell if this goal can be achieved in reality.
What the Trump administration thinks about climate change
Donald Trump has stepped back from his previous assertion that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese (he claimed it was a joke), and some do think that Trump believes more about climate change than he says. Still, the Trump administration’s energy has many worried about long-term negative implications to the environment.
Perhaps most important to consider is the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as leader of the EPA. This could be taken as a sign that the administration is out of step with what mainstream science is saying about the issue.
Scott Pruitt, considered by many scientists to be a skeptic of climate change, has admitted that science tells us that the climate is changing. But he says the level to which humans are impacting that change is not clear.
As Pruitt says, “The ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”
This doesn’t really provide a clear answer of what Pruitt—or the administration that nominated him—will do specifically. But this line of thinking is out of step with what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) asserts about 2016 being the hottest year on record: human activity is to blame for the heat.
What Donald Trump’s plan means for climate change
Since Trump has made clear he will get rid of certain regulations, it’s probably best to start by looking at what impact that will have. As his March executive order made clear, the dismantling of Obama-era policies has begun. Other climate policies Trump plans to end include:
- Waters of the United States
- What it does: Also called the Clean Water Rule, this EPA regulation has the broad goal of defining and protecting the nation’s most important streams and wetlands, those that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.
- Why the Trump administration will repeal it: Opponents see this rule as overly cumbersome, unnecessary, and/or making Americans poorer. To the Trump administration, repealing it can stimulate business in the oil, agricultural, and homebuilding sectors.
- Dangers of a repeal: Most scientists believe climate change will increase demand for water but shrink supply. Putting the most important water resources at risk of pollution and contamination could cause a water crisis in the future.
- Climate Action Plan
- What it does: The Climate Action Plan establishes a comprehensive strategy to guide efforts for climate change mitigation. Main goals are to cut carbon dioxide emissions, prepare the US for climate change impacts, and lead international initiatives to address climate change.
- Why the Trump Administration will repeal it: Again, those that don’t agree with this rule see it as overly burdensome, unnecessary, and/or making Americans poorer. To the Trump administration, repealing it can stimulate business in all sorts of sectors, from energy and agriculture to manufacturing.
- Dangers of a repeal: Too much carbon dioxide in the air is mainly what’s driving global warming. Lifting restrictions on the emission of greenhouse gasses could lead to severe environmental consequences. The United States is the second largest contributor of heat-trapping gasses, and not making efforts to reduce CO2 emissions could greatly (and negatively) impact the entire earth.
In addition to repealing these two environmental regulations, Donald Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a comprehensive global climate deal that aims at climate change mitigation and mobilizing the world’s leading nations to find ways to solve the challenges we’ll face tomorrow. The Paris Agreement was signed by both the United States and China (the world’s greatest contributor of heat-trapping gasses), and was hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against climate change.
If Trump withdraws America from the Paris Agreement, much momentum in that fight to save the environment will be lost. Since the United States is a leader in the global arena, there is also risk that other countries will follow—which would greatly hinder worldwide efforts to solve key climate change concerns of today and tomorrow.
Climate change initiatives under Donald Trump
The Trump administration is focused on lifting regulations so that the economic benefits of energy can be fully realized. Exactly how Donald Trump will address climate change hasn’t been covered extensively, but the administration does say it is committed to “protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources.”
But many don’t believe the administration is committed to protecting the environment, as we’ve only really gotten details about how deregulation will unleash the potential of American energy. If lifting restrictions remains the top focus going forward (and no substantial efforts to address climate change challenges are made), the issues we face concerning the environment will at best be put to the side and at worst be greatly exacerbated during the Trump administration.