At Least 20 Climate Change Deniers Lead Trump Team, POLITICO Reports
But, as POLITICO revealed in a deep-dive published March 7, Pruitt isn't the only member of the Trump administration whose refusal to accept climate science could have serious impacts on U.S. policy.
The POLITICO report focuses on 20 Trump appointees with positions as agency heads or advisors in the administration who have made public statements dismissing the threat of climate change or the science behind it. POLITICO suggests their views have already influenced the Trump administration's climate-related decisions, such as pulling out of the 2015 Paris agreement or removing higher temperatures from a list of national security threats.
It has further produced a graphic outlining each appointee's climate views and how it might impact their actions going forward.
The report includes both big names like Attorney General Jeff Sessions and lesser-known figures who still wield significant power. Sessions, who has called carbon dioxide "plant food," has more power over climate decisions than you might expect, since his Justice Department will defend Trump's environmental policies from lawsuits.
On the lesser-known side are figures like Douglas Domenech, the Department of the Interior's assistant secretary for Insular Areas, who oversees Pacific islands particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The people living in those territories would not be encouraged to know he once said, "Climate alarmists are once again predicting the end of the world as we know it. This time the culprit is carbon dioxide," as POLITICO reported.
Other climate deniers whose views could do real harm include Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue and Homeland Security Sec. Kristjen Nielsen. The Agriculture Department will have to deal with droughts and changing rainfall patterns, but its employees have been barred from even discussing the problem openly, as leadership has instructed them to use "weather extremes" instead of "climate change" in reports. The Department of Homeland Security runs the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which responds to hurricanes and other storms that are increasing in frequency and intensity as the planet warms.
Ana Unruh Cohen, the government affairs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, compared the current government's denial of climate science to a patient refusing heart medicine. "Trump taking that away, saying, 'Forget it, I don't believe I have high cholesterol,' is setting up the country for a heart attack," she told POLITICO.
The U.S. isn't the only country affected by the Trump team's willful ignorance. Former UN General Sec. Ban Ki-moon told The Guardian on Monday that the U.S.'s exit from the Paris agreement had made international action on climate change more difficult and hindered the delivery of aid from rich countries to help poorer countries adapt to climate-related challenges.
"I think the United States' decision to withdraw from this Paris agreement really creates a serious problem," he said.
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.
<div id="a420d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5369c498a5855fe2143b86fa07e23dff"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1364300806988652548" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨🚨🚨 Bernie Sanders voted against Tom Vilsack's nomination. It's great to see the Senator stick to his principles a… https://t.co/u4XNU4viNC</div> — RootsAction (@RootsAction)<a href="https://twitter.com/Roots_Action/statuses/1364300806988652548">1614109634.0</a></blockquote></div>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Beverly Law and William Moomaw
Protecting forests is an essential strategy in the fight against climate change that has not received the attention it deserves. Trees capture and store massive amounts of carbon. And unlike some strategies for cooling the climate, they don't require costly and complicated technology.
The U.S. has more than 800 million acres of natural and planted forests and woodlands, of which nearly 60% are privately owned. USDA / USFS
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By Matt Casale
There were many lessons to be learned from Texas' prolonged periods of lost power during its cold snap, which saw temperatures drop into the single digits. But one many people may not recognize is that electric vehicles, or EVs, can be part of a smart resiliency plan — not only in the case of outages triggered by the cold but in other scenarios caused by extreme weather events, from fire-related blackouts in California to hurricane-hit power losses in Puerto Rico.
A car driving in the snow in Dallas, Feb. 2021. Matthew Rader / CC BY-SA 4.0<p>Experts recognize that electric vehicles are a central climate solution for their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But EVs are also essentially batteries on wheels. You can store energy in those batteries, and if EVs are equipped with something called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-to-grid" target="_blank">vehicle-to-grid</a> or vehicle-to-building technology, they can also be used to keep the lights on in emergencies. The technology allows the energy being stored in an EV battery to be pushed back into the grid or into buildings to provide power.</p><p>There are hurdles: The technology is still <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/vehicle-grid-technology-revving" target="_blank">developing</a>, the vast majority of EVs currently on the road do not have this capability, and utilities would need regulatory approval before bringing it to scale. But done right it could be a great opportunity.</p><p>Electric car batteries can hold approximately <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/11/how-california-can-use-electric-vehicles-keep-lights" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">60 kilowatt hours (kWh)</a> of energy, enough to provide back-up power to an average U.S. household for two days. Larger electric vehicles like buses and trucks have even bigger batteries and can provide more power. The American company Proterra produces electric buses that can store <a href="https://www.proterra.com/press-release/proterra-launches-zx5-electric-bus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 660 kWh of energy</a>. Electric <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/electric-trash-trucks-are-coming-quietly-to-your-town-11602098620#:~:text=Electric%20trash%20truck%20love%20is%20in%20the%20air.&text=A's%20program%20to%20reduce%20carbon,being%20primarily%20electric%20by%202023." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">garbage trucks</a> and even <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/business/electric-semi-trucks-big-rigs.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">big-rigs</a>, with bigger batteries, are becoming a reality too.</p>
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann / CC BY 2.0<p>If equipped with vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-building technology, those cars, buses and trucks could prove invaluable during future blackouts. People could rely on their cars to power their houses. Municipalities, transit agencies and school districts could send out their fleets to the areas most in need. We could power homes, shelters and emergency response centers — and could keep people warm, healthy and comfortable until power could be restored.</p><p>But to add this great resiliency tool to our arsenal in times of extreme weather, we must significantly increase the number of EVs on the road. In 2019 electric cars accounted for only about <a href="https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/articles/fotw-1136-june-1-2020-plug-vehicle-sales-accounted-about-2-all-light-duty" target="_blank">2%</a> of all light-duty vehicle sales in the country. Electric buses and trucks are becoming more common in the United States, but still only represent a tiny fraction of the fleet. As it stands now, the EVs currently on the road, even if equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology, would do little to help a broad swath of the population in need of power.</p>
A line of electric cars at charging stations. Andrew Bone / CC BY 2.0
With lockdowns in place and budgets slashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many environmental protections vanished this past year, leaving some of the world's most vulnerable species and habitats at risk. But conservationists at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation were faced with an entirely different threat.
Annapolis, Maryland, is suing 26 oil and gas companies for deceiving the public about their products' role in causing climate change. The city is among two dozen state and local governments to file such a lawsuit.
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