A Trump Win for the Environment? Maybe

By The Editorial Board as published on the New York Times

Business groups and Senate Republicans are pushing to strengthen the ozone-saving Montreal Protocol. It should be an easy call for President Trump.

Into the bleak landscape that is the Trump administration’s environmental record comes a new report — from the government’s own analysts — that lays out in the grimmest terms yet the consequences of continued inaction on climate change. The National Climate Assessment, issued on Friday when most Americans’ attention was on shopping, football and leftovers, predicts devastating effects from a warming planet and stands in sharp contrast to President Trump’s blithe rejection of the basic science of climate change. The report details the environmental, human and economic costs of a changing climate in the United States, including worsening drought, more vicious wildfires, wider crop failures and accelerating property damage. The impacts could reduce domestic economic activity by as much as a tenth by 2100, the report says.

The president shrugged it off — “I don’t believe it,” he said Monday — as he has all previous studies on climate change, even as his administration pursues policies that will in all likelihood make the problem worse. In fact, the administration’s retrograde policies and its assault on President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda have been so broad that it’s become something of a game to ask which of Mr. Obama’s initiatives on climate change and the environment still have life. The news site Axios tried this exercise recently and came up with a rather short list, albeit one that might suggest some tactics to win at least modest protections for the environment even from this administration. It included a possible reprieve for a threatened bird that Mr. Obama had hoped to save, but none of his ambitious efforts to attack global warming. Mr. Trump is determined to weaken Mr. Obama’s rules restricting greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and power plants — the chief culprits in the warming climate.

As for the positive bits, Andrew Wheeler, Mr. Trump’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, got top billing for pledging to move ahead with stronger air pollution standards for heavy trucks, as promised by Mr. Obama. Mr. Wheeler convinced the trucking lobby and truck and engine manufacturers to go along with the new standards (to be issued in 2020) in return for simpler compliance rules. This is big news from an agency that has torpedoed one clean air initiative after another.

The Interior Department rated two mentions. One was Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement of a forthcoming auction of federal waters off Massachusetts as a possible site for wind turbines. Offshore wind is a carbon-free source of power, and Mr. Obama promoted it as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Trump administration advertises it as part of the president’s “all of the above” energy strategy and a way to promote American wind turbine builders. With only one offshore wind farm in United States waters, America lags far behind the rest of the world…(CONTINUED)

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