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Trump Named ‘Worst President for Our Environment in History' by Nine Green Groups

Politics
Trump Named ‘Worst President for Our Environment in History' by Nine Green Groups
Trump departs the White House for the U.S. Capitol to deliver the State of the Union address in Washington, DC, on Feb. 4, 2020. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

As President Donald Trump prepared to give his third State of the Union Address Tuesday night, nine conservation groups considered the state of the nation's environment.


Their consensus?

"Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history," the groups wrote in a statement released Tuesday.

The statement was written by Alaska Wilderness League Action, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, EDF Action, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and The Wilderness Society. The groups said they decided to release the statement out of concern the president would try to "greenwash" his record during his speech.

The groups wrote:

"Donald Trump's administration has unleashed an unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities. His policies threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans; no amount of his greenwashing can change the simple fact: Donald Trump has been the worst president for our environment in history. Unfortunately, our children will pay the costs of this president's recklessness. Our organizations have repeatedly fought back against these attacks and we will continue to fight to ensure that our kids don't bear the brunt of the Trump administration's anti-environmental agenda."

As of Dec. 21 of 2019, the Trump administration had attempted to roll back more than 90 environmental rules and regulations, The New York Times reported. Those included:

  1. Replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that limited carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas plants. The new rule would let states make their own rules and could lead to as many as 1,400 additional air pollution deaths a year by 2030.
  2. Revoking California's waiver to set its own vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act
  3. Changing how the Endangered Species Act is applied to make it harder to protect animals and plants from the climate crisis
  4. Stripping protections from streams and wetlands that had been protected by the Obama administration

In his speech to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, which came a day before the Senate is set to vote on whether or not to remove him from office following an impeachment trial, Trump talked up his deregulatory efforts as a boon to the U.S. economy.

"Thanks to our bold regulatory reduction campaign, the United States has become the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world, by far," he said, according to a transcript published by The New York Times.

However, The New York Times pointed out in a separate fact-check that the U.S. became the world's leading oil producer in 2013 and its leading gas producer in 2009, making it impossible to credit Trump's rollbacks.

Trump's only other mention of environmental policy came when he spoke of his decision to join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, a plan launched by the World Economic Forum to plant, conserve and restore one trillion trees.

The plan is intended to help fight the climate crisis and restore biodiversity. Capturing carbon in forests, grasslands and wetlands can achieve as much as one third of the emissions reductions needed to meet Paris agreement goals by 2030, the initiative pointed out, but such so-called "natural solutions" need to go along with reducing emissions in the energy, heavy industry and finance sectors.

Trump called the initiative "an ambitious effort to bring together government and private sector to plant new trees in America and all around the world," but did not mention the climate crisis.

However, The New York Times pointed out that the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion tons of greenhouse gasses in 2019. To plant enough trees to draw all of that down out of the atmosphere would require an area of land about four times the size of California.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to a New York Times article listing Trump's environmental deregulations as being dated Dec. 20. It has been corrected to reflect the fact that the article was last updated Dec. 21.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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