Much like the Gulf Oil Spill, nothing remotely approaching good
by Melody Knight-Brown
Beyond the surprising, or for many, devastating turn of events on Tuesday, beyond the fact that Donald Trump is a sexist, racist, islamophobe, beyond the fact that Mike Pence is best known for trying to allow businesses to reject LGBTQIA+ customers, there is an untold impact that the Trump/Pence administration will have on the environment.
Neither Trump nor Pence believe that climate change is a critical issue, or that it is even an issue at all. Trump promised throughout his campaign to repeal EPA measures which he considers have a negligible benefit, including tighter methane controls for domestic drillers and Obama’s proposed plan to lower carbon emissions. The EPA’s position in general would shrink to an advisory capacity. Trump has also vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, the first international agreement to mitigate global warming, a move ominously reminiscent of Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Likewise, Trump has also vowed to divert billions of dollars from United Nations measures that fight and protect against climate change.
This matters because climate change is a fact. A fact that has been confirmed and supported across all fields of science. Sea levels have risen 17 cm in the last century and in the past decade, sea levels have risen twice as much as they have in the past century. Twenty of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1981 and the top ten warmest years have occurred in the past 12 years. Ocean temperatures too have been rising, approximately 0.302 F since 1969. The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are shrinking between 150-250 cubic kilometers per year. Arctic sea ice too is shrinking both in size and thickness. Glaciers are disappearing across the globe from the Alps, to the Rockies, to the Alps to the Andes. Oceans, as a result of higher carbon dioxide atmospheric levels, have become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. The amount of CO¬2 that is absorbed by the oceans is increasing by approximately 2 billion tons per year. This wreaks havoc on ocean life and the coral reefs. Some of these statistics may seem minor or they may seem like they are happening so slowly one four-term presidency could hardly make a difference, but it can.
The United States is consistently rated one of the worst polluters on earth. In 2011, The U.S. produced 17% of the global carbon dioxide emissions. To put that in perspective, the U.S. is only approximately 6.6% of the world’s landmass, 1.9% of the earth’s total surface area, and only contains 4.4% of the world’s population. America as a country produces a disproportionate amount of total the greenhouse gases (not just CO2 but also methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs, PFCs, NF3, etc.) that are released each year. While some of these emissions can be explained as proportional to the US’s industrialization, it is still excessive and because the United States does have such an impact on the global climate, we have the potential to make that impact a good one. However, this does not seem likely under a Trump/Pence administration especially given the rumors Trump has picked Myron Ebell, a notorious climate skeptic, to lead the U.S. EPA transition team.
The longer the government denies and puts off any sort of meaningful climate reform, the harder it will be to counteract and the more likely it will be that we will not be able to reverse the damage done before something tragic happens, or even at all. The unfortunate truth is most forms of environmental destruction are caused by government-regulated industries. The responsibility for our planet now lies with the Trump Administration.