Trump Watch
Activists protest during the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bonn. Philipp Guelland /EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

5 Environmental Triumphs Over Trump in 2017

By Clara Chaisson

From his flagrant dismissal of the scientific consensus on manmade climate change to his eagerness to see treasured landscapes degraded by extractive industries, Trump's disregard for clean air, drinkable water and natural heritage has been relentless during the first year of his presidency. Not only are his anti-environmental actions wrong, but many are illegal. And businesses, politicians, nonprofit groups and ordinary citizens alike have stepped up to fight his toxic agenda.

In the name of making spirits bright, here are five times Trump's environmental actions didn't succeed at trashing planet Earth in the past year.

1. The Failure: Abandoning the Social Cost of Carbon

The social cost of carbon, or SCC, is a calculation that estimates the long-term economic impact of carbon dioxide emissions. It's a highly significant number—lawmakers use the SCC to figure out whether rules that tackle pollution are worth the investment. In 2009, the Obama administration established a group called the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases that eventually set the cost of one ton of CO2 emissions at $41, which is why the former president estimated the Clean Power Plan would ultimately yield up to $54 billion a year in health and environmental benefits.

Just a couple of months after taking Obama's spot in the White House, Trump disbanded the Interagency Working Group with his Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth Executive Order. He said its findings were "no longer representative of governmental policy." Trump decided the SCC should be calculated differently, with each government agency determining its own dollar figure. This could mean interagency inconsistencies as well as an increased emphasis on the domestic, rather than global, impact of CO2—pivots that would make the emissions seem far less costly than they actually are. The Trump U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan, for example, calculated that the SCC would be just $1 to $6 by 2020.

But some courts find fault with this plan. In cases across the country, judges are ruling that the SCC is necessary, and fossil fuel projects like coal mines and pipelines are now tied up as a direct result of the administration's failure to consider the climate costs.

Meanwhile, numerous states, including Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and New York, are ignoring Trump's moves and still using an SCC above $40 to guide policy decisions.

2. The Failure: Scrubbing Climate Change Data

Even before Inauguration Day, scientists began worrying that important information on climate change could soon disappear from government websites. Multiple groups staged hackathons to preserve data and webpages from the EPA as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in accessible places like the Internet Archive and DataRefuge.

So when information on—and even references to—climate change did indeed begin disappearing from government websites shortly after Trump's inauguration, scientists and engaged citizens were ready. Groups like the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative have been watching the administration like hawks, monitoring changes to government agencies and keeping public environmental data, well, public, even as the current administration is determined not to.

3. The Failure: Delaying State Reports on Smog Standards

In 2015, the Obama administration tightened the national standard for ground-level ozone, a pollutant that causes serious health problems, bringing it down to 70 parts per billion from 75 ppb. States had until Oct. 1 of this year to submit their air-quality data, but EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt attempted to delay that deadline. Maybe he thought that no one would notice? Fat chance. After 16 attorneys general sued, Pruitt reversed course, stating, "We take deadlines seriously."

But Oct. 1 has come and gone, and (surprise!) the EPA has yet to declare which parts of the country are not in compliance with the new rule. So in December, the lawsuits came again to force the agency into action, this time from 10 health and environmental groups including NRDC.

4. The Failure: Touting Coal at the U.N. Climate Conference

When 17,000 people representing 195 countries met in Bonn, Germany, in November to discuss concrete steps for fighting climate change, the tone-deaf Trump administration decided it was the perfect time to sing coal's praises. But its presentation, given by industry heads and titled "The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation," was disrupted by a song, as hundreds of protestors belted out an anti-coal version of "God Bless the U.S.A." that went viral.

5. The Failure: Using U.S. Cities and Businesses to Defend the U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

Trump proudly announced in June that he would turn his back on the entire world and withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. His reason? He said it was for the good of the country's businesses, cities and citizens. "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he said.

Pittsburgh's mayor, Bill Peduto, was quick to issue a rebuttal in Trump's preferred language (Tweet), saying he would follow the Paris agreement's guidelines. He and Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo then doubled down on their joint commitment to climate action in a New York Times op-ed titled "We Have Our Own Climate Deal."

Perhaps Trump forgot that all the groups he mentioned in his withdrawal announcement can speak for themselves, and plenty of them loudly and plainly rebuked his stance by saying, "We Are Still In." A coalition of businesses, cities, states, universities, indigenous peoples and faith groups that are committed to upholding the agreement is 2,500 leaders strong and growing.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Jerry Brown went a step further and launched the America's Pledge initiative, which unites private and public sector leaders devoted to reducing carbon emissions so that the U.S. can still deliver on the goals of the Paris agreement. The coalition recently presented a report to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's executive secretary, Patricia Espinosa, showing that if these U.S. institutions still committed to the Paris agreement were a country, its economy would be the third-largest in the world.

They can't make up for the absence of federal leadership, but they won't stand on the sidelines while our Denier in Chief attempts to trump decades of hard-won climate progress. Make America Great Again? Challenge accepted.

Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.

Show Comments ()
Solar shade canopies. University of Hawaii

This College Could Become the First 100% Renewable Campus in U.S.

As a growing number of U.S. cities make pledges towards 100 percent renewables, it's easy to forget that the entire state of Hawaii set this important benchmark three years ago when it mandated that all of its electricity must come from renewable sources no later than 2045.

To help the Aloha State meet this ambitious commitment, in 2015, the University of Hawaii (UH) and the Hawaiian Legislature set a collective goal for the university system to be "net-zero" by Jan. 1, 2035, which means the total amount of energy consumed is equal to the amount of renewable energy created.

Keep reading... Show less

Silver Nanoparticles in Clothing Wash Out, May Be Toxic

By Sukalyan Sengupta and Tabish Nawaz

Humans have known since ancient times that silver kills or stops the growth of many microorganisms. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is said to have used silver preparations for treating ulcers and healing wounds. Until the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, colloidal silver (tiny particles suspended in a liquid) was a mainstay for treating burns, infected wounds and ulcers. Silver is still used today in wound dressings, in creams and as a coating on medical devices.

Keep reading... Show less
4.4 million premature air pollution deaths could be avoided in Kolkata if emissions are reduced swiftly this century. M M / CC BY-SA 2.0

Study Finds Timely Emissions Reductions Could Prevent 153 Million Air Pollution Deaths This Century

One of the roadblocks to swift action on climate change is the human brain's tendency to focus on threats and stimuli that are an obvious and noticeable part of their everyday lives, rather than an abstract and future problem, as Amit Dhir explained in The Decision Lab.

Now, a study published in Nature Climate Change Monday shows that acting quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions would also reduce the air pollution that is already a major urban killer, thereby saving millions of lives within the next 40 years.

Keep reading... Show less
Lands threatened by BLM's March 2018 sale include Hatch Point. Neal Clark / SUWA

Trump Administration Sells Oil and Gas Leases Near Utah National Monuments

The Interior Department on Tuesday is auctioning off 32 parcels of public lands in southeastern Utah for oil and gas development.

The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) lease sale includes more than 51,000 acres of land near Bears Ears—the national monument significantly scaled back by the Trump administration last year—as well as the Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients monuments.

Keep reading... Show less
Katharine Hayhoe talks climate communication hacks at the Natural Products Expo West Convention. Climate Collaborative

Katharine Hayhoe Reveals Surprising Ways to Talk About Climate Change

By Katie O'Reilly

Katharine Hayhoe isn't your typical atmospheric scientist. Throughout her career, the evangelical Christian and daughter of missionaries has had to convince many (including her pastor husband) that science and religion need not be at odds when it comes to climate change. Hayhoe, who directs Texas Tech's University's Climate Science Center, is CEO of ATMOS Research, a scientific consulting company, and produces the PBS Kids' web series Global Weirding, rose to national prominence in early 2012 after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment. The reason? Hayhoe's arguments affirmed that climate change was no liberal hoax. The Toronto native attracted the fury of Rush Limbaugh, who encouraged his listeners to harass her.

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Tide NA / Twitter

Kinder Morgan Pipeline Protest Grows: Arrests Include a Greenpeace Founder, Juno-Nominated Grandfather

By Andy Rowell

Just because you get older, it doesn't mean you cannot stop taking action for what you believe in. And Monday was a case in point. Two seventy-year-olds, still putting their bodies on the line for environmental justice and indigenous rights.

Early Monday morning, the first seventy-year-old, a grandfather of two, and former nominee for Canada's Juno musical award, slipped into Kinder Morgan's compound at one of its sites for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and scaled a tree and then erected a mid-air platform with a hammock up in the air.

Keep reading... Show less

The Grapes of Trash

By Marlene Cimons

German monk and theologian Martin Luther probably said it best: "Beer is made by men, wine by God." It's true—the world loves its wine. Americans, in fact, downed close to a billion gallons of it in 2016. But winemakers create a lot of waste when they produce all that vino, most of it in seeds, stalks and skins.

Keep reading... Show less

Why Mike Pompeo Could Be Even Worse for the Environment Than Rex Tillerson

By Kelle Louaillier

As Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was one of the most blatant revolving-door cases in the Trump administration and a clear sign that Trump's government was of, by and for the fossil fuel industry. But make no mistake: Mike Pompeo could be far worse.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!