President-Elect Trump Is An Existential Threat To America's Scientific Legacy

President-Elect Donald Trump campaigning in New Hampshire back in August 2015. Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Robin Andrews 11 Nov 2016, 22:39

And then, there’s the Paris agreement, the greatest cooperative framework of the 21st century. Taking around 20 years to plan for and prepare, it officially came into force on November 4. Thanks in no small part to the teamwork between the American and Chinese governments, this pact was rushed through faster than almost any other deal of its kind partly in fear of a Trump presidency.

It’s almost certain that Trump and his prodigal Republican sons and daughters in Congress will do all they can to pull out of this so-called “unconstitutional” pact. To do so would likely doom the world to several degrees of warming, the nightmarish effects of which have been clearly underscored by hundreds of thousands of scientists.

However, there is a genuine hope that Trump’s election has come too late to stop a clean energy revolution. It takes four years to leave the Paris agreement once enshrined in law, and in two years’ time, the midterm elections could result in a Democratic-controlled Senate or House of Representatives.

These climate change-fighting lawmakers could filibuster any attempt Trump makes to leave the agreement, and it’s certain they would keep doing so until he was kicked out of office.

Plenty of delegates at the UN climate summit in Morocco, although downbeat, are defiant that Trump will not hamper their efforts. Although the US could briefly become an active impediment to climate change mitigation, the fact is that renewable energy is getting rapidly cheaper and more accessible.


Its implementation will continue to grow and expand throughout the US as companies increasingly recognize it will bring economic benefits. By 2040, without any government guidance, nearly a quarter of the US will be powered by renewable sources.

Individual states like New York and California are moving forward with their own low-carbon legislation. Other states that enact a carbon tax will make nuclear power more cost competitive with fossil fuels. For all his sound and fury, there is nothing Trump can do to stop this.


She might be in charge of conservation soon. Seriously. Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock

All of the above will be a scourge on the environment as well as our own species, of course. Trump has previously said that he wants to stop paying money to the UN as part of the Paris agreement’s plan to help developing nations adjust to low-carbon power sources over time. Instead, he wishes to use it to provide clean air and water to American towns.

This strikes us as curious. If he is going to invest in both the very real regular coal and the almost entirely fictional “clean coal”, where is he going to trap all that air pollution to stop it killing millions of Americans every single year? We’re sure he’ll bury it in his huge chamber of secrets, the very same hiding his tax returns.

A handful of reports claim that he is to put a prominent and fairly aggressive promoter of climate denialism, Myron Ebell, at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team. Once referring to the EPA as the DEP, which apparently stands for the “Department of Environmental,” he audaciously vowed to shut the whole thing down.

Trump told Scientific American that “agencies filled with unelected officials” are catering “to special interests” in response to being asked about how he plans to protect the natural world and preserve biodiversity. As the editorial board noted, “a healthy ecosystem – crucial to the survival of humans and other species – is not a ‘special interest.’”

It’s considerably unlikely that he will live up to Obama’s legacy of protecting more American waters and land than any other president in US history. There’s a good chance much of it could be sold off during business deals to companies that want to either build on it or dig for fossil fuels.

In fact, BuzzFeed reports that Sarah Palin is being considered to head the Department of the Interior, the government organ responsible for the conservation of federal land and natural resources. Just let that sink in for a moment and try not to slam your head into a wall.

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