Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Over the past four years, President Trump has rolled back over one hundred and thirty environmental measures, repeatedly claimed climate change is a “hoax” and that “scientists don’t know," and used the power of his office and Congress to derail climate legislation. Kids Fight Climate Change has compiled a timeline of his most dangerous moments.
Starting the day he took office, President Trump’s administration has deregulated many environmental protections, most of them by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (more information here). Andrew Wheeler, Trump Administration head of the EPA and former coal-industry lobbyist, (among others) has been scaling back climate change legislation, including:
June 1, 2017: President Trump announces that the US will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.
June 2, 2017: The US halts payments to the Green Climate Fund, a UN program to help less developed countries reduce carbon emissions.
July 30, 2018: The EPA relaxes rules on the storage of coal ash, a dangerous substance containing lead, arsenic, and mercury.
September 18, 2018: President Trump announces a plan to ease the regulation of methane leaks on public lands.
June 19, 2019: The EPA replaces the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which is less strict in terms of carbon emissions.
August 12, 2019: The Trump administration changes how the Endangered Species Act is applied, making it harder to protect wildlife from long-term threats.
January 23, 2020: President Trump strips away environmental protections for more than half the nation’s wetlands/waterways.
August 17, 2020: President Trump opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, removing protection for the largest remaining wilderness area in the US.
October 28, 2020: President Trump strips protections from Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.
November 4, 2020: The US withdraws from the Paris climate agreement.
December 7, 2020: The Trump administration announces an auction on drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
To summarize four years’ worth of policies into one sentence, the Trump Administration did everything they could, starting day one, to downplay the effects of climate change and undermine the importance of climate science. He pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which is an essential framework designed to keep the countries of our world from irreversibly damaging the climate. He promoted the coal, oil, and natural gas markets even though combined, they still have fewer jobs than the renewable energy sector. He has opened countless nature reserves across the US to oil and gas drilling, with his latest move directed toward the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. And most of all, he has criticized his own scientists, all of which know more than him on the topic of climate change. And while policies can be reversed by the next president, one’s legacy remains forever.
Although there’s plenty of terrible policies that President Trump will be known for, it is the resilience of our nation’s climate scientists against an administration that devalues them that that will go down in history. Throughout his term, Trump and his team have sidelined or silenced government experts, scientists, and bipartisan trusted advisors. The administration completely reshaped panels of outside advisors, yet scientists have ensured that their advice was heard anyway. Despite the administration’s efforts to prioritize them, fringe theories were kept to a low. The more popular views regarding climate change—including that greenhouse gases are dangerous to human health and the environment—largely remained. Even against unyielding political pressure, the scientific institutions of America held firm. The belief that the work done in these departments directly benefits the American people and the world could not and would not be quashed by one president and his team.
However, over the course of these four years, thousands of federal scientists have left their jobs. Many of them, EPA alumni especially, banded together to form the Environmental Protection Network (EPN). They came together in order to share inside information with the press, advocacy groups, and politicians. And during this time, they shed light on exactly how downhill things had gone in the institutions of the American government—once trusted and revered—now ignored and mocked. But they all said one thing: things will get better.
At the end of these four years, the lasting message needs to be one of trust. Trust in our government to act in accordance to the will of the American citizens, trust in our leaders to listen to experts before making decisions, and trust in the perseverance of the American spirit. Trump’s presidency has shown just how much power can be exerted against the greater good, but also the unbending integrity of America’s scientific institutions. Scientists did everything they could to make sure the decisions passed would benefit the people, and in doing so, showed that it doesn’t just take an election to spark change. If everyone does their part, little by little, even the biggest obstacles can be surpassed. So as we head into a new, hopefully better, year, it is important to remember that the greatest challenges are not overcome by one person alone, but by all people together.
Cheung, Helier. “What Does Trump Actually Believe on Climate Change?” BBC News. BBC, January 23, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51213003
Dangerfield, Katie. “What Happened to the Environment with 3.5 Years of Trump in Office,” October 20, 2020. https://globalnews.ca/news/7396045/climate-change-donald-trump-record/
Davenport, Coral. “Trump Eliminates Major Methane Rule, Even as Leaks Are Worsening.” The New York Times. The New York Times, August 13, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/13/climate/trump-methane.html
EELP Staff. “EPA VOC and Methane Standards for Oil and Gas Facilities - Environmental & Energy Law Program.” Harvard Law School, December 16, 2020. https://eelp.law.harvard.edu/2017/09/epa-voc-and-methane-standards-for-oil-and-gas-facilities/
Eilperin, Juliet. “Trump to Strip Protections from Tongass National Forest, One of the Biggest Intact Temperate Rainforests.” The Washington Post. WP Company, October 28, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/10/28/trump-tongass-national-forest-alaska/
Lavelle, Marianne. “The Resistance: In the President's Relentless War on Climate Science, They Fought Back.” Inside Climate News, December 26, 2020. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27122020/trump-climate-science-epa-wheeler-biden/
Popovich, Nadja, Livia Albeck-ripka, and Kendra Pierre-louis. “The Trump Administration Is Reversing More Than 100 Environmental Rules. Here's the Full List.,” October 16, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks-list.html