As the world media circus in recent weeks has revolved around President Donald Trump's missile strikes in Syria, the prospect of World War III, and a potential nuclear armageddon with North Korea, his administration has already launched a scorched earth campaign on the planet.
From claiming that climate change was a hoax invented by the Chinese to unraveling Obama-era environmental regulations since taking office, teleSUR looks at some of Trump's worst attacks against the environment ahead of Earth Day on April 22.
Ripping Up the Paris Agreement
Trump has repeatedly called to scrap the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, a historic deal reached by 194 countries in December 2015 to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate Action Plan, introduced in 2013 during the Obama administration, is seen as the U.S. answer to fulfilling the targets that were set out by the Paris agreement. But it is likely to be one of the first policies on Trump’s chopping block and was already swiftly removed from the White House website once Trump was inaugurated.
Trump referred to global warming as a hoax and in 2012, said that the idea of global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
While Trump clarified that it was a “joke” during his presidential campaign, his attitude toward arguably the biggest problems facing the planet and humanity appears grim as his team this week is looking to reconsider where the U.S. sits on the Paris agreement.
“Trump has put fossil fuel interests in charge of the United States government and the result is going to be climate catastrophe,” Friends of the Earth said in a press release. “Debating a choice between weakening U.S. climate action or withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is simply an exercise in rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency
Trump's budget proposal plans to gut funding for the federal agency by US$5.7 billion, equivalent to 31 percent of its previous budget. Environmentalists are concerned that the cuts will pull key research, protection and cleanup projects, while limiting the EPA’s enforcement capabilities.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a host of other agencies related to the environment are also expected to be hit by cuts. According to the yet-to-be-passed budget proposal, the cuts were justified to “ease the burden of unnecessary federal regulations.”
Earlier in the year, those working at the EPA were been banned from speaking to the media, posting on social media or writing anything critical as Trump’s administration continues its war on the environment.
The EPA has also been filled with a number of people with a background in lobbying for dirty and extractive industries, as well as climate change skeptics.
Trump’s handpicked head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, has made comments contradicting EPA policy on climate change, by saying that he does not believe that carbon dioxide emission is the main cause of global warming. Pruitt has been widely criticized by the scientific community for ignoring a large body of evidence and the overwhelming consensus of scientists.
“I, along with many EPA staff, are becoming increasingly alarmed about the direction of EPA under your leadership,” EPA scientist Michael Cox wrote in his resignation letter to Pruitt.
Cox, who had worked at the agency for 25 years said that Trump’s administration was “working to dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible,” and added that the administration’s credibility and integrity would be undermined “if you continue to question this basic science of climate change.”
Propping Up Destructive and Dirty Industries
As part of the scrapping of the Clean Power Plan, Trump and his team have pushed for a resurrection of U.S. manufacturing, construction, and mining industries and has called for the end of the “war on coal,” waged by the Obama administration.
“The president has sent a clear message that the last eight years, where we had to choose between jobs and the environment — those days are over,” Pruitt said earlier this month.
In one of his many executive orders, Trump signed to fast-track the construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, with the promise of bringing back thousands of jobs.
Trump also signed a congressional resolution in February to pull out of the “Stream Protection Rule” which put a number of tight regulations on how the mining industry can dump its waste. Environmentalist and scientists have pointed out how dirty dumping practices from the industry commonly ends up polluting waterways. Once again, the change has been justified as lifting an industry-killing regulation.
Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the former head of Exxon Mobil, an organization which has been investigated for funding research to downplay its environmental impact and its contribution to climate change.
In March, Pruitt rejected the recommendations of EPA experts and refused to grant an across the board ban the use of chlorpyrifos. The pesticide, which continues to be used in thousands of farms and has been linked with brain damage, has already been banned in other areas.