Trump Ctrl-Alt-Deletes climate change policies

That Donald Trump’s scepticism about climate change will adversely impact policies to address global warming became abundantly clear minutes after he become the President. The White House website deleted all mentions of climate change. Turning its attention to other agencies, the Trump administration instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to follow suit and scrub all mentions of climate change from its website as well. But following a protest by scientists and others, the administration softened its stand and indicated that the agency’s website was only being “reviewed” and that it had “no immediate plans to remove the content” on climate change. Mr. Trump also resurrected the environmentally controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that former President Barack Obama had blocked after a protracted battle with policy makers. Extracting oil from tar sand, considered as the direst fossil fuel, is lot more harmful to the environment that normal petroleum. And in a bid to prevent any data or information that works against his stated interests, the administration had issued a gag order to scientists at EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop them from speaking to the media; the administration subsequently changed its policy with respect to EPA but has mandated that even routine data and studies be “reviewed” before being released to the public. Whether he would target other agencies such as NASA and NOAA is not known. In line with his thinking that “global warming is an expensive hoax”, Mr. Trump plans to re-energise the fossil-fuel industry. The American First Energy Plan listed on the White House website aims to increase  fossil fuel extraction in the name of creating more jobs, and in the process “eliminating”, among other things,  Mr. Obama’s climate action plan.

Even more alarming is Mr. Trump’s intention to reverse America’s involvement in the historic Paris climate accord. Under the pact, 127 countries have agreed to limit the increase in since pre-industrial time to less than 2 degrees C in the 21st century, and try to work towards reaching a tougher target of 1.5 degree C. In November 2014, Mr. Obama announced a new target to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Among other measures taken in 2015, the U.S had finalised the clean power plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. With the average global temperature already reaching 0.8 degree C above pre-industrial levels, there are fears that any further delay will have long-term repercussions that would be near impossible to mitigate. With the current and proposed policies by the U.S. already inadequate to meet the Paris target, any negative deviation from the plan will be dangerous.  and have implications for the entire world. Unlike his plans to repeal Obamacare, dump equal rights measures or promote anti-vax movement, any move to aggravate global warming by further increasing greenhouse emissions will cause colossal damage and have implications for the entire world.

Published in The Hindu on January 27, 2017