Why Trump Must Be Voted Out To Save the Environment

Not too long after taking office, Trump issued an executive order that for every new regulation enacted, two must be eliminated. The Brookings Institute tracked the administration’s deregulatory actions and found 74 actions, as of August 2020, taken to weaken environmental protection. The Trump environmental record has at least been consistent.

President Obama established the Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using the Clean Air Act. The plan reduced carbon emissions from the power sector. The Trump administration replaced the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which will only result in a one percent reduction in GHG emissions from power plants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Fuel economy standards are one way to reduce GHG emissions as transportation is the largest source of U.S. emissions. The Trump administration rolled back Obama-era fuel economy standards, which gave Americans $660 billion savings. The new standards take away $460 billion of those savings. The new standards increase GHG emissions by almost three gigatons of carbon, equivalent to nearly two years of emissions from the transportation sector.

In 2016, The Obama administration enacted a rule to reduce venting or flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands. The Trump administration rolled back the rule by releasing a replacement that rescinded most of it. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential far exceeding that of carbon. Methane accounts for 16 percent of climate change. 

The Trump administration rolled back rules designed to protect the air. One of those rules is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) that limits the amount of mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. Mercury is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the soil and water. Mercury concentrates in fish and is particularly toxic for pregnant women and children. 

The Trump administration refused to strengthen National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). Every five years, an independent science advisory committee reviews NAAQS. The administration packed the advisory committees with industry and anti-regulatory members, limited the scientific research the committees could consider and accelerated the process. 

In July 2020, the Trump Administration issued a rule to update the National Environmental Quality Act. The new rule aims to limit environmental reviews of projects to two years, limit climate change as part of environmental assessments, and excludes certain projects from the environmental assessment process. 

The Trump administration issued a rule that redefines and restricts the waterways the Clean Water Act protects. Under the rule, 51 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of streams lose federal protections. The streams and wetlands that lost protection serve as headwaters for rivers and lakes that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. 

The economic and health benefits of environmental regulation

The Trump administration deregulates environmental protections despite the benefits of protecting the nation’s air, water, and soil. The Office of Management and Budget looked at major regulations from 2005 to 2014 and found that the economic benefits greatly exceeded the costs every year. The benefits of environmental regulations exceeded costs by a ratio of more than 10 to one and provided net economic benefits to the U.S. of over $500 million a year. 

There are health benefits from environmental regulations. Fossil fuel-burning power plants discharge at least 5.5 billion pounds of pollution into bodies of water every year, according to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project. Wastewater from power plants contributed to more than 23,000 miles of contaminated rivers, polluted fish in 185 bodies of water, and the degradation of 399 bodies of water used as drinking water sources.

Perhaps the most iconic and far-reaching failure of the Trump Environmental Record rests with the Paris Agreement.

Trump and the Paris Agreement

President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement about 195 countries to reduce their GHG emissions to avoid the worst climate change impacts. The U.S. is the only major GHG emitter in the world to withdraw from the agreement and cannot withdraw until the day after the 2020 election in November. A poll taken right after the 2016 election found that seven in 10 voters (69 percent) said the U.S. should participate in the Paris Agreement. Two-thirds of voters also said that the U.S. should reduce its GHG emissions, regardless of what other countries do, and 62 percent wanted Trump and Congress to do more to address climate change.

During his announcement about the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump mentioned the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” However, not doing anything to mitigate climate change will cost far more than the costs of complying with the Paris Agreement. A 2020 study found that delayed mitigation of climate change will reach 18 percent of global GDP in 2080 and further mitigation delay costs 0.5 trillion dollars a year. The damages due to delayed mitigation increase by 0.6 trillion dollars a year in 2020. In December, the House Committee On Oversight and Reform released estimates for the current economic effects of climate change. The estimates cite the data of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that, as of December 2018, climate change cost U.S. taxpayers about $430 billion in disaster assistance since 2005. 

What you can do

You can do something to stop the environmental deregulation. Begin the hard road of reversing the Trump environmental record. Vote on November 3. 

How Meteorological Towers Are Tracking the Impact of Climate Change

Meteorological towers are powerful tools. They take in vast amounts of data and information every day, at all hours of the day. Climate researchers and scientists can then use this data to understand how the world and atmosphere are changing. 

On a large scale, the climate crisis is an urgent global issue that requires constant action. With the right data from these towers, researchers are one step closer to understanding the best paths to take to combat climate change. 

Understanding how the towers work is the first step in gaining the necessary data. From there, taking action is the ultimate goal. 

How Meteorological Towers Work

These meteorological towers come in many different heights. Some are shorter and stand at 20 feet tall, while others skyrocket to almost 1,000 feet. These differences account for the surrounding area and environment. A tower might need to be taller to get more data.

The data these towers receive include anything and everything relating to the climate. From wind speeds to soil temperatures, they have sensors for it all. Scientists and climate experts need detailed information to understand climate change. Air pressure, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, moisture, light intake, temperatures, precipitation, cloud coverage, and air chemistry are often the main focuses of these towers.  

The towers transmit this data back to a database or computer. Researchers then process the information and monitor changes. If concerning trends are rising, researchers can act accordingly and alert other organizations and governments about impending climate threats. For instance, with climate change comes hurricanes — the towers’ wind sensors can monitor the coming storms.

In the United States, these towers are popping up everywhere. Hawaii saw the installation of its first tower in May 2019, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is installing several around the country. Towers for business use are becoming more popular — one stands at around 33 feet and 35 pounds and is ideal for wind speed and direction equipment. These structures can benefit industries like the shipping sector by providing climate data on a daily basis.

The Climate Crisis

The above components are critical for monitoring everyday patterns. However, more importantly, they are invaluable for the ongoing climate crisis. The increasing installation of these towers across the country only reinforces the need to act immediately. 

For instance, monitoring precipitation, temperatures, and air chemistry may show changes in the climate that negatively impact environments and ecosystems. As air pollution increases, the air’s chemistry will change — including more CO2 emissions. Temperatures have been gradually rising as well, which directly contributes to the destruction of natural resources and habitats — like arctic regions. 

Using the tools from the meteorological towers, researchers can process the changing trends. They can see how the climate crisis worsens rainy and dry seasons. Natural disasters, too, see a direct correlation with global warming.

The meteorological towers then give researchers and scientists insight into how trends will continue to change. They are a warning system of sorts. The towers from NOAA, for instance, have sensors at different intervals, reaching up to almost 1,000 feet. The data these sensors capture then translates into trends, predictions, and actions. 

One instance where these towers have aided the fight against the climate crisis is in Virginia. At Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), students and experts have been using the data from meteorological towers to monitor and protect wetlands. These environments are invaluable for helping animals and ecosystems thrive and purifying water naturally. Using data like temperatures, soil moisture, carbon levels, and precipitation shows what researchers need to do to protect these sites. 

The Power of Towers

With their innovative data collecting abilities, these meteorological towers are a gateway to a better understanding of climate change. From there, researchers can choose faster solutions to enact. It all begins with taking in as much data as possible.


Image by Mizzou CAFNR on Flickr

Trump’s Wildfire Prevention Funding Cuts

Trump’s budget for 2020 cut funding for a wildfire suppression program by almost $600 million, recent research by the Western Values Project found. His administration acknowledged that 63 million acres of federal forest lands and 70,000 communities are at risk of severe wildfires. “Instead of increasing budgets to try to prevent fires, the federal government has been relegated to fighting them once they’re blazing,” according to the research.

The Trump administration cut funds by more than half for a program that develops both fire prevention and management practices. Trump also cut $45 million in forest and rangeland research money and eliminated forest service research positions. Trump failed to increase funding to deal with wildfires. The budget for the National Forest Service’s wildland fire management activities remains at $2.4 billion, and Trump’s 2021 budget proposes the same amount. 

Trump withholds funding for political purposes, according to the Western Values Project. “Trump told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him and that politically it wasn’t a base for him,” said the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The USDA and NFS withheld $9 million worth of reimbursements owed to California fire agencies for their time spent fighting fires on federal lands.

Wildfires grow more severe every year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture budget summary for 2020 stated that over the past 10 years over 68,000 wildfires burned around 6.5 million acres on average. In 2018, California broke a record for the number of acres burned (1.7 million acres). This year, over four million acres burned and wildfires still rage across the state. 

California only owns three percent of forests

Trump blames California for the wildfires. “They’re starting again in California,” Trump said about wildfires. “I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up.”

California has 33 million acres of forest, and federal agencies own and manage 57 percent of them (19 million acres). State and local agencies only own three percent. Forty percent of the forests in the state are owned by families, Native American tribes, or companies, with industrial timber companies owning 14 percent (five million acres). 

The need for better wildfire funding

A 2015 USDA report predicted that the share of the budget devoted to wildfire suppression in 2025 could be over 67 percent. This amounts to two out of every three dollars the NFS receives from Congress. That likely means that funding for wildfire prevention could continue to be slashed. The same report points out that the Vegetation and Watershed Management Program plays a key role in restoring lands after wildfires. The funding for the program has been reduced since 2001. As a result, the rate of restoration the agency could have achieved across all NFS lands has decreased.

Changing the way the federal government pays for wildfire prevention is the solution. That means treating wildfires like other natural disasters. Bipartisan legislation offering a more rational approach to funding wildfires is needed, the report points out. Since wildfires in western states are likely to increase, that legislation can’t come fast enough. 

Do you want to see a more sensible approach to wildfire prevention and funding? Vote the Trump administration out of office on November 3. 


Featured image by Glenn Belz on Flickr

COP23 Wraps : The Long Journey Continues, Nobody Said It Was Easy

Fight another day

The first COP climate conference of the Trump presidency wrapped up last week. True to form, the final gavel fell in the “wee hours” of Saturday morning.

Lacking the excitement of COP21 two years ago, COP23 is nonetheless one more step in the long road of transforming into reality the global aspiration expressed in Paris.

That reality is by no means assured. Despite the political upheaval of the past year, we survive to fight another day.

Life in the Anthropocene

A race to where?

Continue reading “COP23 Wraps : The Long Journey Continues, Nobody Said It Was Easy”

Leading Experts Make the Case for Climate Action in the United States

A new, cross-disciplinary white paper authored by three prominent international climate experts for the US-based Universal Ecological Fund refutes the notion that taking proactive actions to mitigate and adapt to rapid climate warming runs contrary to U.S. domestic economic interests.

It was precisely that contention that President Donald J. Trump used to justify his intention to back the US out of its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, to which then President Barack Obama committed the US in December 2015.

In contrast to numerous other studies that have sought to assess the multitude of impacts and effects climate warming has and will continue to have over the course of the 21st century, the FEU-US study, “The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States,” zooms in on economic losses resulting from extreme weather events, and on health costs of exposure to air pollution that result from burning fossil fuels. Continue reading “Leading Experts Make the Case for Climate Action in the United States”

Climate Migration, the Paris Agreement, and the Delusion of Isolation

One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic

Forced MigrationBe it from social unrest, economic upheaval, or environmental collapse, forced human migration is at unprecedented levels. According to the UNHCR, there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today. Of those, more than 22 million are forced refugees. Over half are under 18 years old. Nearly 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute.

Continue reading “Climate Migration, the Paris Agreement, and the Delusion of Isolation”