As a president skeptical of climate change, Donald Trump has been working since he arrived at the White House to systematically dismantle the progress that Barack Obama made in the fight against global warming: withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, reviving the hyperpolluting coal industry by repealing the Clean Power Plan of 2015 … and in his relentlessness, he has drained the meaning from the Environmental Protection Agency, trusting its direction to an even greater climate-change skeptic than himself, Scott Pruitt.
As a reflection of the dismal work environment, 700 EPA employees have left the agency in one year’s time, including 200 scientists, a hemorrhage that is shrinking the agency to the size it was under Ronald Reagan. In May of 2017, 13 of the 18 members of its Board of Scientific Counselors, all recognized experts, were shown the door, to be replaced by members representing the chemical and petroleum industries. The board’s role is to verify the scientific value of the standards established by the EPA and the research it conducts. In Pruitt’s privatized EPA, this validation is now secondary to business profits.
This environmental demolition is unprecedented. The previous Republican government, led by George W. Bush, who was also very close to oil tycoons, never dared to go this far, although the temptation was great.
Now, The New York Times has revealed that the agency is ready to significantly dilute the anti-pollution standards imposed on car manufacturers, standards Pruitt has decried for the “regulatory burden” they impose. The Volkswagens of this world will no longer have to hide. The implications of this decision are catastrophic because it will necessarily lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions at a time when the world is already struggling to slow the pace at which the planet is warming. Suffice it to say, however, that Obama’s initiatives in this area were not revolutionary: today, for the first time in 40 years, the largest source of air pollution in the United States is not electricity production, but transportation – cars, trucks, trains and airplanes.
The thought does not occur to Trump that he is making the world increasingly unbreathable. A pioneer in the fight against pollution, California has promised to wage an epic battle against him. But it can’t fight this fight alone.