Trump's position on climate change now unclear

2016-12-01 07:15
(Thibault Camus, AP)

(Thibault Camus, AP)

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Washington - Donald Trump plans to dismantle President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce planet-warming carbon emissions. But delivering on his campaign pledges to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and bring back tens of thousands of long-gone coal mining jobs could prove far more difficult.

Internal documents from the president-elect's transition team show the new administration plans to stop defending the Clean Power Plan and other recent Obama-era environmental regulations that have been the subject of long-running legal challenges filed by Republican-led states and the fossil fuel industry.

Against that potential opposition, environmental groups are gearing up to defend Obama's environmental legacy in court.

Scientific data

"We anticipate challenging every single attempt to roll back regulations on air, water and climate," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, who added that his group is already hiring additional lawyers. Fundraising for environmental causes also has spiked since Trump's victory.

Though Republicans have for years blamed environmental regulations for the decline of coal, data from the US Department of Energy shows the primary cause is the emergence of cheaper, more abundant natural gas from hydraulic fracturing. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

Leading Trump's transition team on the EPA is Myron Ebell, director of the Centre for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank that gets financial support from the fossil fuel industry and that opposes "global-warming alarmism."

Though his academic credentials are in philosophy and political theory, Ebell is an enthusiastic denier of the voluminous scientific data that show the planet is warming and that burning fossil fuels is primarily to blame.

Trump said during the campaign he would "cancel" the Paris agreement to make global reductions in carbon emissions that Obama signed in December.

The agreement was not a treaty and was not approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and legal experts agree that as president Trump would have the authority to walk away. Even without a formal withdrawal, Trump could simply order EPA not to take any action toward meeting the US commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26% below 2005 levels within the next 10 years.

Human activity

Trump appeared to soften his position in a recent interview with The New York Times, saying he now has an "open mind" about the Paris agreement. He also shifted away from his year-long insistence that climate change is a "hoax," conceding there may be "some connectivity" between human activity and the warming of the planet.

Still, Trump's advisers have suggested he will eliminate NASA's world-class climate research programme, which tracks the warming of the planet, melting Arctic sea ice and rising oceans using an array of purpose-built satellites orbiting the globe.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  climate change

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