The dire consequences from climate change could arrive sooner than previously predicted, according to a recent report issued by the United Nations. In the week since the report was issued, however, the Trump administration hasn’t been heeding that warning and has even made moves that could negatively affect the climate.
According to the dire report, which was issued by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Oct. 8, global temperatures could rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040. Such a temperature increase would destroy the planet’s coral reefs, and cause increased droughts and wildfires that could spur massive food shortages.
Limiting climate change to a more sustainable level, the IPCC said in a press release, would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” including for human-caused carbon dioxide emissions to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
The Trump administration, however, has continued to push its agenda that rejects mainstream climate science in the wake of the startling report. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on ABC’s This Week Sunday that the report was “way, way too difficult” and questioned the degree to which climate change is a manmade problem, despite overwhelming scientific consensus suggesting it is.
“I think something’s happening,” Trump claimed. “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference.
“But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this. I don’t wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t wanna lose millions and millions of jobs. I don’t wanna be put at a disadvantage.”
Trump’s doubt has been reflected in his own administration’s actions: After pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and undertaking such recent moves as curbing Obama-era rules governing vehicle emissions and air pollution, the administration continued to disregard the issue of climate change with two administrative moves in the wake of the U.N. report.
Trump administration disbands panels on air pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency has officially disbanded two panels of outside experts meant to advise the government on air pollution, the Washington Post reported Saturday. One panel advised the EPA on the health impacts of soot, while the other was a planned panel on ground-level ozone that had yet to formally meet.
The EPA’s expert panels consisted of two dozen researchers from a variety of fields, who would review scientific research and make recommendations on how the EPA should regulate specific pollutants — often encouraging the agency to adopt stricter limits.
With the panels disbanded, the EPA will now instead consolidate its efforts into a single seven-member Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which will perform similar assessments. The Trump administration has hired five new members of the committee from state and local governments in largely conservative states.
The new committee members largely hail from state agencies that have been particularly critical of strict air quality standards. One new member, Sabine Lange of the Texas Council on Environmental Quality, drew criticism in 2015 for a workshop on the air pollutant ozone; the Environmental Defense Fund said the event undermined the public health benefits of air quality standards and presented a “one-sided perspective on the issue.”
Environmental advocates cited by the Post suggested the CASAC may not be able to fully vet the vast amount of pollution research required to make educated assessments, citing the committee’s “small size, skewed composition and lack of expertise.”
Gretchen Goldman, research director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement that the consequences of disbanding the panels are “enormous.”
“The EPA is required by law to protect public health by fully considering the best available science,” Goldman said. “The dismissal of the particulate matter review panel would make it impossible for the agency to fully evaluate the science and adequately protect the public. The agency would be deliberately choosing to sideline science if they move forward without access to adequate expertise.”
Climate doubting lawyer ascends to top environmental role in Justice Department
The Trump administration is also inserting its views that doubt climate change into the U.S. Department of Justice, as the Senate officially confirmed Jeffrey Bossert Clark Thursday as the new head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Clark was approved by a 51-45 Senate vote, with Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin joining Republicans in favor of the nomination.
Clark comes to the Justice Department after previously serving as a lawyer at the firm Kirkland and Ellis, where he defended BP in a lawsuit over the company’s 2010 oil spill, which released 200 millions gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The legal challenge was brought by the government department that Clark now runs, which is tasked with enforcing the federal government’s environmental laws and interests.
The now-agency head has also espoused views that are antithetical to making progress on climate change. In 2010, Clark compared Obama-era efforts to limit greenhouse gases with a “Leninistic program from the 1920s to seize control of the commanding heights of the economy,” saying that the regulations were “more about control, really, than about environmental protection.”
Clark said in the same 2010 speech that the EPA’s efforts “[need] to be checked by judicial review” and has called climate science “contestable.” The lawyer defended his latter comment during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, saying he stands by the remark “because there are clearly scientists and private entities who disagree.”
With his new appointment, Clark is now the latest climate doubter to take an environmental position in the Trump administration. He joins such other officials as acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former energy lobbyist who said during his confirmation hearing that it is not “completely understood” what the human impact on climate change is.
Clark’s appointment has been blasted by environmental advocates and Democrat lawmakers alike; Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described Clark on Twitter as “the wrong person for the job.”
“Jeffrey Bosson Clark’s blatant hostility toward environmental protection is good news for polluters, but awful news for the rest of us,” Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said in a statement. “The guy who defended the company that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is not likely to aggressively go after corporate environmental outlaws.”