The climate emergency is one of the greatest challenges ever posed to humanity—if not the greatest—and our actions over these next few years are critical if we hope to avert the most dire outcomes. We have already raised the planet’s temperature by one degree Celsius over pre-industrial levels, with another 0.5°C of irreversible warming baked in over the next 10 to 15 years by our actions to date. If we don’t drastically shift course, temperatures will rise by a total of 2, 3, and even a catastrophic 4°C by the end of the century. There are many effects of this global warming on our health; we are facing famine, water shortages, unsurvivable heat, sea level rise, an increase in life-threatening extreme weather events, and more.
As individuals, we can only do so much. Avoiding single-use plastic, driving electric, and eating more plants are all great steps, but they aren’t going to decrease America’s carbon footprint enough to avert disaster. That requires a strong federal response in the form of regulation and investment in green technology and infrastructure. To this end, Biden has a plan which, while not as radical or flashy as the Green New Deal, definitely requires that the U.S. switch gears to help save the planet. His opponent, President Trump, does not have a formal plan; however, we know a fair amount about his perspectives on the subject, and can glean a lot more from examining his first-term environmental policies. Below, 7 things to know about the president’s climate views and actions.
1. He’s denied climate science on multiple occasions
In 2012, prior to his election, President Trump called climate change “a hoax” and said it was invented by the Chinese. He made similar claims in 2013 and 2014, also on Twitter. During his 2016 campaign, Trump claimed that his 2012 tweet was a joke, though his campaign manager ultimately told reporters that Trump’s default position was denial. In 2018, he cast doubt on the U.S. government’s “Fourth National Climate Assessment,” which warned that climate change would cost America billions of dollars and negatively affect the population’s health. He also denied climate change was happening again, pointing to cold temperatures as evidence.
More recently, while getting briefed on California’s fire crisis, President Trump said that science doesn’t know whether or not the planet is warming. (It does, according to Trump’s own government.) During the first presidential debate, however, he did concede that humans have some responsibility for climate change, which suggests that he actually believes not only in global warming but in the role humans play in it.
2. Upon taking office, the Trump Administration removed all mentions of climate from the White House website
They replaced any mentions with a page pledging to get rid of Obama-era policies aimed at mediating climate change.
3. He put climate change skeptics in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
After taking office, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, a climate skeptic, to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an organization critical to regulating the industries most responsible for climate change, among other things. When Pruitt resigned, coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler took his place.
4. His administration has reversed, or is in the process of reversing, 100 environmental rules
The Trump administration has worked consistently to gut existing environmental protections since taking office: It repealed the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era policy aiming to reduce U.S. emissions by 32 percent by 2030, and replaced it with the significantly less restrictive Affordable Clean Energy Rule; reduced protected natural areas and wildlife protections to pave the way for increased energy extraction; weakened fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles; relaxed air pollution regulations for coal plants; revoked an executive order from Obama that required America’s greenhouse gas emissions be cut by 40 percent in the next ten years; and much, much more.
According to research, these rollbacks will result in the release of an extra 1.85 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 2035.
5. He pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, the largest global effort to combat climate change to date
In 2017, President Trump pulled out of the Paris accord, in which 195 countries agreed to take significant measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The NYT called this move a “major setback for the worldwide effort to combat global warming.”
6. His policies have garnered him the support of the fossil fuel industry
The Trump-Pence 2020 campaign has received tens of millions of dollars in donations from the fossil fuel industry. The US contributes 14 percent of the world’s fossil fuel emissions, and a 2017 study found that the fossil fuel industry worldwide accounts for 50 percent of global warming.
7. Climate scientists fear that averting climate catastrophe will be impossible if Trump is re-elected
Climate scientist Michael Mann, PhD, has warned that a second Trump term, with presumably similar policies and actions, would make limiting emissions to the extent necessary to prevent the most dire climate outcomes unlikely. Dr. Mann is not alone in his concerns, either. Other scientists have voiced fears around what Trump’s election would mean for the climate emergency: further rollbacks of environmental protections, a further decrease in industry regulation, and poor leadership of the global community with respect to climate action.