An Unmitigated Disaster: Executive Order on Climate Change Puts Us All in Danger 

President Trump’s latest Executive Order threatens recent strides to combat climate change.

We’ve seen no shortage of Congressional and administrative attacks lately on our wildlife, lands, water and air. While they’ve all been bad, we may now have the WORST: this week’s Executive Order (E.O.) dismantling the nation’s efforts to combat climate change.

Climate change is the single largest threat facing our country and the planet, with vast implications for our health and communities, and wildlife and their habitat. Though the threat has been well understood for decades, the Obama administration was the first to make real progress to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions and developing strategies to prepare for and reduce the impacts of climate change already underway.

Now, with this latest E.O., President Trump could turn back the clock on almost all of that, all but guaranteeing that we will face more climate disasters, and be less able to cope with them.

Order Up: What Concoction is the President Serving Up?

This order cripples President Obama’s overarching strategy for climate change response, the Climate Action Plan, and takes direct aim at some of the Plan’s key elements, most notably efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. It directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind or rewrite the Clean Power Plan (CPP) for existing power plants, and requests a federal court to stay litigation related to the CPP. The E.O. also calls for a rewrite of an earlier regulation that curbs emissions of harmful air pollutants from new, reconstructed and modified oil and gas operations.

This call for “review” of the Climate Action Plan is a terrible blow to our prospects of maintaining a livable climate, and ironically comes just as emissions reduction strategies are beginning to succeed. Last week, the International Energy Agency reported that worldwide greenhouse gas emissions from energy production have now remained steady for three years in a row, which is unprecedented for a time of continued economic growth. Leading the way was the United States, which had a 3 percent drop in emissions over the past year. Astonishingly, “U.S. emissions are at their lowest level since 1992, while the economy has grown 80 percent since that time.” This is tremendous progress. Unfortunately, with Trump’s latest E.O., we are poised to erase these gains and head in the opposite direction.

Trump’s order also cancels last year’s guidance on consideration of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions under the National Environmental Policy Act, our country’s premier planning law. The policy  sought to better inform federal decision-makers on climate and potential impacts of climate change on federal projects, ensuring that federal investments in infrastructure would be both resilient to the impacts of climate change and minimize further impacts on the climate.

The E.O. even undermines how we evaluate the potential impacts of emissions by asking agencies to “reconsider” the social cost of carbon (SC-CO2), the system used to determine a dollar value on the potential benefits of cutting carbon emissions, as well as the long-term costs associated with damage done by a ton of carbon dioxide emissions in a given year. “Reconsider” in this case most likely means shifting to a system that underestimates these impacts.

Encouraging Bad Behavior

Beyond stripping away regulations mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to adapt to climate change impacts, this week’s E.O. will likely spur increased emissions by directing agencies to “identify rules and policies that serve as obstacles or impediments to domestic energy production.” In other words, it seeks to remove production safeguards and encourage more fossil fuel extraction from more areas. The Obama administration had put rules in place to limit the leakage of methane—which has 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide—and the contamination of water supplies from oil and gas production on federal lands. The E.O. asks agencies to toss out both rules—and the language of the new direction is so broad it could send lots of other important protections out the window.

This E.O. would also re-start the process to lease federal lands for coal mining, which were previously put under a moratorium during the Obama Administration. This could mean the public lands that belong to us all would be turned into strip mines, mountains would be flattened and laid bare, and the habitats of countless wild animals and plants would be decimated.

Unraveling Orders of Magnitude

As if all these blows weren’t reason enough to label this Executive Order the worst we’ve seen to date, there’s more. The new E.O. would also repeal the following previously issued Executive Orders:

Executive Order 13653 (issued November 1, 2013) Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. This E.O. formed the basis of President Obama’s initiatives to support the federal government, states and tribes to prepare for climate and weather disasters, improve our ability to recover quickly, and rebuild in a smarter and more resilient way.

Executive Order 13677 (issued September 23, 2014) Climate-Resilient International Development. This order directed agencies that facilitate international development to implement principles of climate resilience in their work, similar to what E.O. 13653 required in domestic policy. This E.O. also asked agencies to promote greenhouse gas emission reductions in their international development efforts.

Executive Order 13690 (issued January 30, 2015) Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. This E.O. directed agencies to update flood risk assessments to account for the fact that climate change will raise sea levels and increase the severity of precipitation events, meaning that historic flood plain data may no longer accurately represent future risk to life and property. Repealing this E.O. will put trillions of dollars of assets at risk, in addition to potentially incentivizing development in river bottoms that would be better left as riparian habitat.

Executive Order 13693 (issued March 19, 2015) Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade. This E.O. directed agencies to improve their energy efficiency and water conservation efforts, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions of their vehicle fleets and data centers. Rescinding this order essentially tells agencies to stop trying to conserve; in other words, to spend more taxpayer dollars on water and energy.

A Quietus that Will Not Quiet Us

President Trump’s latest Executive Order cripples our efforts to both halt climate change and limit the damage it will cause. It scorns the near-unanimous consensus on the causes and effects of greenhouse gas pollution.

The president’s disastrous directive will mark a dark time in our history and the history of life on this planet if we are not able to offset its dangerous, short-sighted and self-interested priorities. The climate is warming, our actions are accelerating that warming, and if we abandon climate action, we will put ourselves on a collision course with destruction. This E.O. might seem like a quietus, but it will not quiet us. We must use it as a call to action if we intend to fight for life as we know it on Earth.

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16 Responses to “An Unmitigated Disaster: Executive Order on Climate Change Puts Us All in Danger ”

  1. Kelly Brewer

    What the hell is wrong with You President Trump? Where are you going to buy clean air and water when you’ve poisoned it all!

  2. Matt

    I do not see where Executive Order 13677 is mentioned anywhere in the EO issued on 3/28.

  3. Ellen Kent

    We need to protect the environment and everything in it. I agree with Kelly Brewer’s comment on 3/28/17. Where are we going to buy clean air and water when it’s been poisoned?

  4. Helen Pierce

    If the Trump doesn’t get his head out of his (wherever it is) we are not going to have anything left of our world to sustain. When you go past the point of no return, we might as well bend over and kiss our butts goodbye.

  5. louis gauci

    What is happening to governments? What is happening to human beings? Man is destroying the beauty of the world and as result himself. WHAT A PITY!

  6. ahimsa42

    “The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future – deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities and the spread of disease.” — The World Watch Institute

  7. Linda

    We realize you don’t give a single damn for Americans, or the rest of the world.
    Let’s try a more personal perspective …. But there isn’t another planet. And even all your money won’t save your grandchildren from dying along with a destroyed Earth!

  8. Patricia Duffy

    This is a disgrace! Since when is it ok to Kill Mother’s and their Babies in their dens! It should be stopped where it’s happening NOW ! People know where this is going on and no one is protesting at the very site,,,, I certainly wouldn’t make it easy for these creepy people to KILL !!! Congress needs to answer for this as well!
    Ashame some people have no moral conscious at all!!!

  9. Karen Westberg

    The ignorance of President Trump and this administration is going to be responsible for destructive, heinous results to the environment of our beautiful home planet Earth! It is disgusting, actually evil to allow this neglect and mistreatment of the environment! There is no excuse! These people are not educated about science. What they know about science wouldn’t fill a pinhead — furthermore, they don’t seem to care about learning about science. They don’t seem to have a real interest in science, only their own obscure agenda. Well, they are on the way to creating real damage to the environment! They need to be educated about it. However, it doesn’t seem as if they genuinely care about it!

  10. Fátima Pestana

    I was so worried about the election…..
    Now I am terrified!
    All my worries became true and now
    WHAT TO DO my American friends?
    What have you done?

  11. Mary

    Trump, the “Twitter-in-Chief”, is a legend in his own mind. I believe that everything he does is for himself in one way or another. It’s either his own interests that he’s feeding with his back-stepping policies or his friends in oil, gas and coal. You can tell by the cabinet he has chosen and by his clamping down on journalism and the “law” to never mention climate change. It’s called “putting your head in the sand” or covering your eyes like a two year old and thinking that no one can see you. Well, Mr. President, Sir, I hate to inform you, but ignoring something just DOES NOT make it go away! One thing is for certain, and it is not an alternate truth, that we people who want to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and marvel at all the beauty our world offers to us, will be fighting to make things right again.

  12. Chittaranjan Reddy

    Humans are bad for the planet. Especially the selfish and the greedy. And we are all making a mess and sadly very few care for the poor, selfless animals. Many wild species are already suffering and dying because of our mistakes. Then there are those, that get hunted or tortured by humans.
    Humans have to learn to save the planet at least for the sake of the animals. It is not their making the mess they are in. It is not their fault and they have never hurt us.

  13. m adams

    I strongly support helping wildlife and protecting the environment. I have donated to Defenders of Wildlife in the past. However, as a scientist, I am disappointed in the emphasis on climate change and recognize that Trump is correct about the cause of climate change. The climate has always changed naturally, in fact, the earth was much warmer millennia ago and carbon dioxide levels have been much higher in the past. The earth has actually been in a cooling trend in recent months but that story is not carried in the mainstream media.

    Climate change has become a religion and has lost scientific integrity. If you and readers do their own research looking at COMPLETE long term data graphs available on the internet, rather than accusing “deniers” of heresy, you/they too will find internet searches that debunk climate change. Also note some data such as satellite data have been excluded from climate change calculations.

    The cause of climate change is not man-made. Man-made climate change is is a ploy to coerce taxes from various countries for political reasons. In so called data supporting climate change there are numerous instances of faked data, faked studies, and graphs of data selected for only certain time periods when there was a temporary warming trend, or a selected data set cherry picked from a larger set of environmental data to supposedly support the climate change agenda. There are sad pictures wildlife in certain polar regions that do not also show flourishing wildlife in other parts of polar regions. Again, selected information, not the complete picture.

    Again, I strongly support cleaning up air pollution, clean energy, eliminating toxic pesticides, GMOs and securing wildlife habitats and whatever else can be done for quality environment. These problems need direct action, not going in the wrong direction chasing the ghost of supposed carbon dioxide induced climate change.

    Many organizations are questioning the climate change hypothesis. Earth Justice for instance has filed a lawsuit against NOAA for not releasing data requested under FOIA. Until until Defenders of Wildlife resources are appropriately allocated directly solving wildlife problems, I do not want to waste my donations chasing climate change ghosts. Scarce resources need to be allocated to real problems of which there are many.

    Wildlife needs protection from man made chemical pollution, genetic engineering, and habitat encroachment, not from farting cows and soccer moms driving SUV’s.

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