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Most people are aware that President Trump has not exactly been committed to pro-environment policies over the course of his presidency. However, in recent months due to pressure from sections of Republican voters and perhaps some from Biden’s plans, he has made promises to put forth more progressive policies with regards to certain environmental issues.
While talking about the environment, it is worth mentioning that although China is currently at the top of the global emissions list, the US is historically the largest contributor of global greenhouse emissions, despite being home to a disproportionately smaller fraction of the world’s population.
Since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, the most significant action of his has been the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement in June of 2017. This is arguably one of the most defining actions of his presidency, considering the severity of the current climate crisis. The damage that the Trump administration inflicted on the climate crisis didn’t stop in 2017, as he continued to make some similarly motivated decisions in the name of putting the American economy first.
In early August 2020, the Trump administration took steps to undo regulations on methane emissions. with the rationale of reducing federal control over the limitations of individual states. When it comes to protecting the environment, this is another step in the wrong direction as oil and gas companies are now not required to limit their methane leaks which will lead to higher emissions of methane in the atmosphere.
In addition to this, just recently on August 31, 2020, as a part of a plan to save jobs in the coal industry, President Trump relaxed regulations on how coal-fired power plants dispose of their toxic waste. This move is considered harmful to the environment because coal plants emit pollutants and are responsible for the emission of nearly two billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. Unfortunately, despite Trump’s positivity about job creation in the coal industry, the number of jobs in US coal mining has dropped 12% in 2020. Of course, this is not entirely the fault of the Trump administration, as the global pandemic has greatly impacted the US and the world over.
Apart from the abovementioned moves, in 2018, President Trump promised to expand offshore drilling to more than 90% of waters surrounding the USA. This move was considered harmful to the environment because offshore drilling creates dangerous emissions that contribute to climate change as well as air & water pollution which can prove deadly to local communities. However, due to the concerns of voters living in the coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, Trump has taken a massive step back by committing to a ten-year postponement of offshore drilling. This is definitely a step in the right direction as it instils a sense of hope regarding the fact that there could be room for more pro-environment policies in the Trump administration, as long as voters keep the pressure on.
The main rationale behind President Trump’s environment-affecting policies is jobs. This is because not long after his inauguration in January 2017, Trump stated:
‘This is the start of a new era in American energy production and job creation. We will eliminate federal overreach, restore economic freedom and allow workers and companies to play on a level playing field for the first time in a long, long time. We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.’
The creation of jobs is a definite positive aspect of this statement. Trump is keen on creating and maintaining as many jobs as possible and the American fuel industries, when thriving, provide a lot of jobs and boosts the US economy. Trump has campaigned to save coal jobs. Coal is America’s most abundant energy resource and in states where electricity is generated mainly from coal, electricity costs are generally 30% lower. Thus, there are some economic upsides to Trump’s policies regarding fossil fuels, but none of them benefit the environment.
In addition to all this, there are some silver linings to Trump’s presidency as on August 24, 2020, the federal government delayed the Pebble Mine permit. This was a plan to open a copper and gold mine in Alaska, which was said to have significant environmental impacts. The proposed area is a very naturally unique part of the USA with the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. Thus, many of the opponents of the mine are within the fishing community or trade. This delay was constituted with the hope that the mine could be constructed in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
Essentially, the effect that the Trump presidency has had on the current climate crisis is not as awful as many environmental advocates would have predicted back in 2016. That being said, he has still rolled back many pro-environment policies that were introduced in the Obama era, thus contributing to the ever-worsening climate crisis rather than helping to ease the US’s impact. If Trump wins the 2020 election, his advisors should begin to pursue measures in favour of preventing further damage to the environment and commit to implementing the few pro-environment policies that have been promised.