2019 may have been a good year for some reasons in the U.S., but forward-thinking environmental policy wasn’t one of them. Instead, it marked a year of environmental apathy, or even malice, from President Trump. So, with the holiday season bringing this decade to an end, we’re looking back at eight (of many more) environmental cutbacks made under the Trump administration so far.
1. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement
Let’s start with the obvious. Since making his intentions known in 2017, President Trump has finalized his plans to withdraw from the international Paris Agreement.
This makes the U.S. the first country to do so. And although the Paris Agreement offers no binding measures to restrict carbon emissions, this withdrawal still creates a large obstacle on the road to global climate control.
That’s because Trump sent the message that the U.S. won’t make sacrifices for the sake of the climate. And this means that other world powers could feel less obligated to fulfill their parts. Because of Trump, the big question for other Paris Agreement contributors has become this: since the U.S. won’t bother, why should we?
2. Weakening the Endangered Species Act
Ever since its start in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has protected endangered species from economic and environmental threats. Unsurprisingly, that has changed under Trump’s presidency.
In particular, Trump has changed the act to allow officials to dismiss species as ‘threatened,’ rather than ‘endangered.’ Doing so would revoke species’ ESA protections. And the cutbacks could allow officials to remove species from the ‘endangered’ list without considering the threats of climate change.
While species already on the ‘endangered’ list probably won’t lose their protections, newly threatened species will be examined on a case-by-case basis. This means at-risk species could easily get overlooked by less-than-generous government officials.
“The point of the act is to prevent extinction, this is going to do the opposite. It’s going to undermine efforts to recover species,” said conservation scientist Leah Gerber.
3. Dismantling Obama-era Environmental Policy That Restricted Coal Plants
In June, Trump’s administration rolled back on the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. This rule enforced strict limits on carbon emissions from the non-renewable energy industries. The plan aimed to cut emissions by one-third of the 2005 levels before 2030. To do so, utilities were encouraged to switch from supporting the emission-heavy coal industry to renewable energy sources.
But Trump dismantled these restrictions, allowing coal plants the economic opportunity to stick around for much longer. With his “Affordable Clean Energy” rule, Trump has given states three years to create their own plans to cut emissions. These plans, of course, wouldn’t jeopardize coal plants at all. They’d instead encourage plants to improve their own efficiency, according to the EPA.
Yet despite the name, this rule is far too weak to enforce emission cuts. Moreover, by allowing the coal industry to continue at full speed, ACE poses a serious threat to public health.
4. Loosening Regulations on Methane Emissions
Trump has also enacted cutbacks on methane emissions. In August, the EPA announced its plan to retract former President Obama’s requirements for oil and gas companies to limit their methane emissions. The standards required these companies to control methane leaks from oil and gas sites, pipelines, and storage facilities.
Yet Trump’s EPA revoked these standards, despite the oil and gas industries holding the most responsibility for all methane emissions in the U.S. The new standards may also allow officials to reconsider whether methane is even a pollutant (it is). And as methane can trap 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, this rule will severely expedite global warming.
5. Dropping Protections for Drinking Water
This decade has brought greater concerns over water scarcity and clean drinking water than ever before. These concerns haven’t phased Trump, though. Despite them, he’s retracted protections for drinking water (and done nothing to solve the lead-in-water crises).
Notably, Trump has limited the power of the Clean Water Act to protect drinking water and wetlands. To do so, he signed an executive order in 2017 which asked federal agencies to change the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule expanded by President Obama, which had given smaller waterways the same protections as larger ones.
These protections kept pollutants out of surface-level waters, ensuring cleaner drinking water. But Trump’s EPA redefined the WOTUS rule, again weakening the Clean Water Act.
This year, the Trump administration went a step further and repealed the rule altogether. This will without a doubt further contaminate America’s drinking water and endanger its water sources.
Other cutbacks on clean water include Trump’s revival of the Keystone XL and North Dakota Access Pipelines, which in addition to targeting indigenous communities, has tampered with water safety in both Canada and the U.S. But at least the oil barons got a good deal out if it all.
6. Undoing California’s Restrictions on Auto Pollution
In response the California setting its own stricter auto standards in order to curb carbon emissions, Trump revoked the state’s ability to do just that. Claiming that it would provide consumers access to safer and cheaper cars, the White House lifted these restrictions.
Trump has also loosened nation-wide auto standards. The Obama-era tailpipe pollution regulations had required auto companies to manufacture vehicles with an average fuel economy of fuel 54.5 miles per gallon before 2025.
Trump’s new rule would lower the number to 37 mpg, a threshold which would overlook the vast majority of auto pollution. But since California responded to this by enforcing stricter standards within the state, Trump decided to retaliate.
Luckily, some automakers disregarded Trump’s cutbacks against California, making deals with California to reduce emissions anyway. That’s because without action, this battle over auto standards could split the auto industry in two. And California has sued the administration over this decision alongside 22 other states.
7. Opening Up Wildlife Refuges for Energy Drilling
If you like caribou, geese, and polar bears, you probably don’t want oil and gas companies drilling in their backyards. Unfortunately, President Trump has decided to lease out Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) — almost 1.6 million acres of previously protected land — to fossil fuel companies.
Not only does this move severely wildlife and plant life, but it will also displace indigenous populations, including the Gwich’in people, who rely on wildlife for their food source.
The Bureau of Land Management estimated that this decision would emit as much greenhouse gasses as one million new cars on the road would. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disagrees, fearful that the actual carbon footprint of this decision would be far greater.
8: Blocking wildlife and immigrants with his proposed wall
Despite the even longer complete list of Trump’s environmental policy rollbacks, let’s not forget his esteemed wall. Even when disregarding the blatant racism and economic consequences of the President’s proposed US-Mexico border wall, it would still cause problems — for the environment.
Of key concern, the proposed concrete wall would increase emissions, cut off water flows, and block animal migration.
There’s no doubt that a 30-foot-tall wall from the Pacific to the Atlantic would harm both flora and fauna. “We’re already seeing wildlife migrations blocked with the current walls and fences that have already been built,” said Sierra Club’s Borderlands coordinator, Dan Millis.
And it’s also worth mentioning that transporting and producing materials will make the carbon emissions toll for Trump’s wall almost as high as the price tag itself.
More Arguable Environmental Policy to Come
This list may seem daunting, but that’s not all, folks. From allowing mining companies to write their own environmental reports to disparaging wind energy to banning energy-efficient light bulbs because they make him look orange, Trump has taken many more steps in the wrong direction.
With 2020 upon us, it’s time to take a more critical look at the President’s environmental policy. If we don’t, who knows what else Trump will show us from up his sleeve.
Let’s Say Trump Starts A War With Iran. What Would Happen To The Environment?
Since President Trump assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani via drone-strike on January 3rd, the world has stood still with bated breath. Will war break out between the United States and Iran? If it does, it will certainly destroy lives, properties, and economies. But how would war with Iran affect the environment?
A War With Iran Could Expedite Ecocide
One of the many tragedies of war is the environmental toll it inflicts. And this toll will only be compounded by the constantly rising threat of climate collapse. As the climate crisis becomes more and more dangerous in the 2020s, war (let alone world war) will only expedite its advance.
Much of war’s environmental consequences arise from chemical pollution. Especially in war zones with heavy military vehicle presences, the oil residue will contaminate natural resources. In addition, the uranium found in discarded ammunition rounds can cause radiation, which hurts both plant and human life.
Ramifications of Chemical Weapons
Chemical weapons can also easily produce carcinogenic environments. High radiation levels from chemical warfare can increase the risk of cancer around war zones — alongside poisoning soil, water, and crops.
Not only that, but air force bases can generate toxic fuel spills. These spills contaminate drinking water sources and pollute land and natural resources. Wartime destruction of infrastructure, oil fields, and military bases also cause widespread oil and chemical leaks.
Deforestation Becomes a Bigger Threat
Deforestation becomes a bigger threat during wartime as well. As warfare increases the number of displaced peoples, they often must resort to using timber for warmth in the winter months. Warlords can then take advantage of this demand, furthering deforestation.
To make matters worse, bases will oftentimes purposefully burn military garbage. These ‘burn pits,’ alongside causing long-term health problems, are disastrous for the environment.
And What About Nukes?
A war with Iran, in particular, may promise an added threat. The U.S. has an extensive supply of nuclear weapons at its disposal, although Iran has not pursued a nuclear arsenal. If the U.S. or any other nuclear powers choose to pursue nuclear warfare, the environmental outlook is grim.
Researchers have analyzed the environmental consequences of small-scale nuclear war. Only 100 deployed nuclear weapons would toss so much sun-blocking soot into the atmosphere that the global temperature would lower one degree Celcius.
This may sound like a possible combative to global warming, but the temperature drop would distribute unevenly, mainly targeting inland areas responsible for agriculture. This could cause food insecurity — or nuclear famine — that could reach the whole globe.
If that doesn’t sound too pleasant to you, then you probably won’t like to hear that global precipitation rates would also plummet, as would the security of many food chains.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Carbon Footprint
All those consequences would certainly create an enormous environmental disaster. Unfortunately, another (even larger) environmental disaster must be considered. That disaster is the astronomical carbon footprint of the U.S. Department of Defense, which would only increase in the event of a war with Iran.
Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted around 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is a larger figure than the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 nations combined.
And, based off of 2017 estimates, the military has emitted 59 million tons of carbon dioxide. The Department of Defense is also the number one institutional user of petroleum across the globe. Even without a war with Iran, these numbers are unsustainable.
And, in comparison, the U.S.’s climate defense budget is 0.2% of the Department of Defense’s budget.
All these alarming numbers add up to one climate catastrophe. If a war with Iran is imminent, so is further climate collapse.
“Addressing climate change” is the #1 issue for 14% of voters in the 2020 election, poll finds
The last year seems to have been an environmental wake-up call for many, realizing addressing climate change should be a top priority. From company policies to green technology, more and more organizations are engaging with eco-friendly practices. But it’s not just companies — it’s also people like you and me.
It’s not just anecdotal either. Polls and studies are repeatedly finding that people are indeed dedicated to addressing climate change — especially in the 2020 elections.
With the 2020 elections fast approaching, the public is constantly assessing the qualities of presidential candidates. A new poll finds, almost unsurprisingly, that addressing climate change and protecting the environment are top priorities for many American voters.
New Poll Shows Addressing Climate Change is a Priority
According to an Environmental Voter Project poll, environmental issues are one of the leading voter concerns.
In fact, after assessing 1,514 U.S. registered voters, the team found that 14% of the sample designated “addressing climate change and protecting the environment” as their single most important issue. Additionally, the research notes that the group is primarily composed of 18-29-year-olds, Democrats, and individuals who self-identify as “very progressive”.
Although seemingly small, these numbers show exponential growth from previous data collected 4 years ago. During the 2016 Presidential election, only 2-6% of registered voters considered addressing climate as their prioritized issue.
Environmental Voters Show Outstanding Dedication
Compared to previous years, individuals show a record-breaking motivation to participate in the 2020 presidential election.
In fact, some 35% of sampled voters were willing to wait over an hour to cast their ballot.
However, out of all categories, individuals who listed addressing climate change as their most important issue seem to display the most dedication to their civic duties. In this group, voters are willing to wait an average of an hour and 13 minutes to cast their ballot. This is approximately 10 minutes more than the next longest wait time.
Storming Polling Booths in Waves
According to Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the project, “There are almost 30 million climate voters who are already registered to vote. That’s a huge constituency”. He continues to note that these numbers are approximately “four times the number of NRA members”. Historically, the NRA is a group that helped influence previous elections.
These numbers can only increase. With this, the overall political advocacy for the environment should strengthen over time.
Summary (oh, and Register to Vote!)
Although other matters such as healthcare and immigration seem to play an important role in voters’ minds, it’s comforting to see a trend in environmental dedication. However, it does not stop here.
From raging bushfires in Australia to the melting of the Arctic, it is evident that more effort needs to be put into addressing climate change.
Fortunately, we are becoming rapidly weary of the implications climate change has on the planet. Despite tens of millions of individuals already committed to voting for the environment, you can still play a role.
The Real MEAT Act Of 2019: A Vicious Political Attack On Plant-Based Meat
Plant-based meat has gained significant traction in the past year as companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods released their products to a mainstream audience. Using ingredients like soy, beetroot, and herbs to create a surprisingly convincing plant-based burger, these companies have received generally positive reception from consumers and critics alike.
The market is growing at a rapid pace too; in fact, some estimates show that the plant-based meat market could reach $85 billion in the next decade. Hence, it is unsurprising that the beef industry is worried about plant-based meat taking market share. But what is surprising is the way the industry is fighting back.
Introducing the Real MEAT Act, a piece of legislation supported by strong political and financial backing from some of the most prominent companies in the meat industry.
How the Fight Between Plant-based Meat and the Meat Industry Began
Though on one hand consumers have found plant-based meat to be tasty, they are also an environmentally-friendly substitute. Providing a valuable nutrition source at a fraction of the energy necessary for naturally-sourced beef, plant-based meat is giving the beef industry a run for its money.
Today, the methane that cows belch out is one of the many sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, cattle herds require wide swaths of cleared land. Land clearing has most recently allowed the Amazon fires to ensue.
These sustainability concerns have made plant-based meat all the more appealing for consumers and companies like Beyond Meat and others.
The beef industry is worried; hence, it is looking to take competitors down with legislation.
Introducing The Real MEAT Act of 2019
In October, Representatives Roger Marshall (Republican, Kentucky) and Anthony Brindisi (Democrat, New York) introduced the Real MEAT Act to the House.
MEAT stands for Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully, which nicely caps off an obvious bow to vested interests with a succinct acronym. The bill received raucous applause from NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) elites, their profits seemingly assured.
The bill asserts that plant-based meat products are confusing customers. Though the bill makes no specific mention of any companies, it seems to assert that companies like Beyond Meat are ruthlessly deceiving customers.
The Real MEAT Act would force these companies to stop using words like “burger”, “sausage”, and “meat” in their products. Instead, legislation would force companies that sell plant-based meat to use clinical and un-appetizing adjectives to describe their products.
That, unsurprisingly, would likely lead to decreased sales.
Understanding the Real MEAT Act and Its Interests
More recently, Nebraska Senator (Republican) and career cattle rancher Deb Fischer proposed the Real MEAT Act in the Senate. She defended her bill in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
The article features a plethora of willfully obstinate and patently false arguments, but this is one of them:
“Many of these fake-meat companies are running smear campaigns against actual beef, using deceptive labeling and marketing practices. This has left consumers confused about the ingredients and nutritional values of so-called beef alternatives.” — Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer
What the Real MEAT Act Means for Plant-Based Meat
The bill seems to have a nefarious motivation behind it, but there’s a chance that it still passes. On the bright side, a federal judge recently swatted down a similar bill from Arkansas state legislature.
The Real MEAT Act, however, is supported by financial and political backing on a nationwide scale.
What You Can Do Today To Help
If you are for free-market competition in the beef industry, consider calling your Congressional Representative today. Urge them to speak against the Real MEAT Act.
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