President Donald Trump said, “I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist,” but that “it’s out of control.”
Shortly after he said this, Trump signed a series of executive orders advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which had been blocked by President Barack Obama.
The election of Trump will likely stand as one of the most devastating moments for the climate movement. Throughout the presidential race, Trump campaigned as a champion of the fossil fuel industry, flirted with withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and did little to distance himself from his infamous tweet claiming climate change was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. While the immediate implications of a Trump presidency for the future of the planet were unclear on election night, nearly everyone expected a major shift in climate change policy from the Obama administration.
Photo: White House
In the weeks following the election, it became obvious that the new administration would embrace an aggressive policy to reverse the progress made by the Obama administration. The designation of climate skeptic, Myron Ebell, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) transition team in the days after the election signaled the direction this new administration would be taking.
Soon Trump began stocking his cabinet with some of the environmental movement’s most notorious enemies. The nominations of Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the EPA, former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy and U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Department of the Interior indicated that a Trump Administration may be a worst-case scenario for environmentalists. Reports that Trump’s transition team had requested the names of individuals from the Department of Energy who had attended certain meetings pertaining to climate change further alarmed climate activists.
The election of Trump will likely stand as one of the most devastating moments for the climate movement.
Environmentalists did not have to wait long after Trump’s inauguration for the war on climate policy to begin. Within minutes of Trump being sworn in as the 45th president, references to climate change began to disappear from the White House’s website. A statement on the website appeared stating Trump’s promise to eliminate the “harmful and unnecessary” Climate Action Plan. Grants issued by the EPA were frozen and employees were instructed to remain silent about the matter. The executive orders advancing the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines threaten to erase two of the environmentalists’ hallmark victories during the Obama years.
It is clear what direction the Trump administration will take in the coming months. What remains to be seen is how the Democratic Party, the courts, environmental groups and the American people will respond to such an aggressive attack on climate policy. The good news is a massive resistance to the Trump administration’s agenda is underway and a broad coalition of Americans opposed to Trump’s attacks on women, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, environmentalists and other groups appears to be forming. Thousands of people protested Trump’s inauguration and millions of people in the United States and around the world attended the Women’s March on Washington, giving hope for a vibrant opposition.