In a series of actions over the last two weeks, the Trump Administration continues to reverse U.S. government rules and programs that had been contributing to U.S. progress on the climate crisis. In addition to the rule they proposed that benefits coal power plants by allowing them more flexibility with air pollution, the Agriculture Department “buried” studies by USDA scientists on the negative impacts of climate change, proposed that environmental reviews of federal projects no longer include estimates of greenhouse gas emissions caused by projects, increased categorical exclusions of environmental reviews for projects like logging on federal lands, and rebuffed all efforts by the state of California to reach an agreement on the clean car rule rollback.
Why This Matters: Each of these actions alone would represent a significant setback, but when combined these policies reverse years of progress by prior administrations on taking action to confront the climate crisis. Each one will require time and resources to return to where the U.S. would have been but for the Trump Administration’s climate denial. The Secretary of Agriculture is just the latest to make dubious remarks – in an interview with CNN he dismissed the climate crisis as just “weather patterns.” This administration just does not stop making it worse. And the President continues to mislead about the state of our country’s environment. In his campaign kickoff rally a week ago, the Presdent said, “We have among the cleanest and sharpest — crystal clean, you’ve heard me say it, I want it crystal clean — air and water anywhere on Earth.” He repeated this claim in an interview with Sean Hannity, excerpted by The Washington Post above. As The New York Times pointed out afterward, in 2018 the US ranked 27th out of 180 countries in an environmental performance review, compiled by Yale and Columbia University researchers in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
Department of Agriculture Is Latest Climate Denying Agency. Secretary Sonny Purdue’s remarks are hard to believe. He reportedly said to CNN:
- “It rained yesterday, it’s a nice pretty day today. So the climate does change in short increments and in long increments.”
- “I think the president feels that I do, he’s a golfer, so sometimes he knows he gets rained out and sometimes it doesn’t, but the long-term consequences, I don’t know.”
According to Politico, the studies that the Department of Agriculture has made sure do not get seen by the public include “a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people worldwide whose diet consists mostly of rice” and a “finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle.” None of the studies focused on the causes of climate change, but instead on the wide-ranging impacts it will have on agriculture.
As for the NEPA proposal, environmental groups are very concerned because the guidance would no longer require federal agencies to “weigh the effects of various alternatives in NEPA in a monetary cost-benefit analysis using any monetized Social Cost of Carbon … or other similar cost metrics.”