Trump’s Cabinet and the Future of American Climate Change Efforts

Written by Sophie Fitzgerald, ESLLC 2016-2017

In response to the new federal administration, climate change efforts will be spearheaded by the private sector and large cities.

Taking a look at Trump’s administration, it is not surprising to see very few members believe human activity is responsible for warming our planet.  Trump prioritizes the advancement of the US economy through manufacturing and has made up a conspiracy theory to back his opinions. (Since stating his belief that the Chinese invented climate change as a propaganda tactic, he has attempted to distance himself from this lie).  His cabinet might not be in outright support of his specific theory, but many members have made up their own reasons for not trusting facts.  Scott Pruitt (EPA), Ryan Zinke (Secretary of Interior), Rick Perry (Secretary of Energy), and Ben Carson (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) all view the science of climate change as a subject up for debate.  All are quoted as saying the evidence is insubstantial, non-conclusive, or fake.  Unfortunately, all of these positions are crucial divisions of the national government’s climate-conscious policymaking sector.  Other members, such as Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation), Nikki Haley (UN), and Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), do not deny climate change but aggressively denounce its importance, claiming the transition to a cleaner America would be devastating to the job market, too expensive, or just not a concerning threat.

Surprisingly, there are some unclear stances from members that dilute the amalgamation of deniers.  Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense pick, has never officially made a comment on climate change, but military personnel that he has worked with have commented saying he would review climate reports given to him and evaluate them on the basis of national security.  Additionally, CEO of Exxon Mobil (now Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson considers the threat of climate change to be a serious business risk.  Because of this he has expressed interested in reviewing policy and methods of reducing emissions for the sake of business longevity.   It is possible this mentality is somewhat of a PR move for Exxon, but there is a pressure on individuals managing the fossil fuel-driven energy market if they want business survival.  They understand the resources off which they profit are finite, and because of this will be forced to transition to a more sustainable business model if they are interested keeping their business farther down the line.  It is not the most socially conscious way to come about this change, but it is a motivating factor companies should take into account.

Fortunately enough, we live in a country where citizen action is a viable alternative route in change making.  It might not come from where we think – protests, grassroots movements, etc. – although these will factor into a better future.   It will most likely happen through other indirect forms of public response: business and city regulations.  Ex-mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg responded to Trump’s waffling on the fate of the Paris Agreement by stating, “Cities, businesses and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded […] that doing so is in their own self-interest. […] Washington will not have the last word on the fate of the Paris Agreement in the U.S. — mayors will, together with business leaders and citizens.”  Recently it has become more prevalent of cities publicly announcing that despite the decisions of Washington in the upcoming years (on topics such as immigration and climate), they will set up their own more progressive stances independently.  Since Bloomberg’s proclamation, other individuals have come out with similar remarks.  Gov. Jerry Brown of California has officially stated that his state is willing to abide by any international standards set forward and even act as an independent entity during climate summits.  “California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington,” he said.

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This is good news for those of us concerned with the future of combatting global warming.  It does not mean the solution is going to correct itself and there is still an incredible amount of work to be done on research, climate policy, public education, economically reasonable technologies, and many other facets of a green revolution.  But it is refreshing to hear public figures denounce Washington’s stance and take action into their own hands.  Businesses, cities, and citizens are at the forefront of change making in America, as the pressures of climate change bare down on our future.


Articles Cited

“Climate Change and the Incoming Trump Government”: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/19/us/politics/climate-change-trump-administration.html

“Bloomberg Says Cities Will Fight Climate Change, With or Without Trump”: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/mike-bloomberg-donald-trump-climate-change.html

California, at Forefront of Climate Fight, Won’t Back Down to Trump”: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/26/us/california-climate-change-jerry-brown-donald-trump.html?_r=0

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