"Among climate hawks, the reactions to Donald Trump’s election have ranged from hopeless to Pollyannaish and everything in between. Former Vice President Al Gore expresses hope that Trump will work with the “overwhelming majority of us who believe that the climate crisis is the greatest threat we face as a nation,” while the New York Times’ Andy Revkin argues that the U.S. president doesn’t make a huge amount of difference when it comes to climate anyway.
Going by his campaign promises, though, the Trump era is shaping up as an open season for the fossil fuel industry. Coal stocks are soaring, and there are strong indications that TransCanada might put the Keystone XL pipeline back on the table.
Trump certainly can’t dismantle climate action and the clean energy economy as quickly as he’s promised (day one), and in some cases, he won’t be able to do it at all. But here’s what’s on his hit list, along with an analysis of what he can and can’t do.
Gutting the Paris climate deal
Trump promised to “cancel” the international climate change accord in his first 100 days of office. Seeing that the deal went into effect last week, he will have to wait a little longer. There’s a three-year period before any country can give notice to withdraw, plus one year before that pullout takes effect. But in the meantime, the United States could severely handicap the deal by not following through on emissions cuts and reneging on promised funds for global climate adaptation.
Trump, though, doesn’t determine whether other countries will stay the course. Most of the world remains committed, for the time being. He will, however, be able to severely undermine the next round of international climate negotiations in 2020, which were supposed to bring about an even stronger, more ambitious agreement than the one signed in Paris. Without the United States involved — much less leading climate diplomacy, as Obama did — the effort may be doomed. That’s even more true if Trump follows through on his promise to eliminate all U.S. contributions to global climate finance.
Scrapping the Clean Power Plan
Trump has promised to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency regulations that would curtail carbon dioxide emissions from power plants — the single biggest domestic accomplishment of the Obama administration on climate. Bureaucratically, reversing the regulations isn’t as easy as promised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who thinks “day one would be a good idea”), but Trump’s EPA could choose not to enforce the rule by giving states waivers. The Supreme Court has ruled that EPA has the legal obligation to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, so environmental organizations and liberal states can sue the Trump administration to try to force it to regulate once again. But a court system stacked with Trump appointees would be far less friendly to those kinds of lawsuits. The Clean Power Plan already appears headed for the Supreme Court — which would soon include a Trump appointee in addition to four judges consistently hostile to environmental regs. (more)