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The Environment And The Trump Administration

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Environmental policy has been the topic of major debate for the greater part of a century. The United States faces both short-term and long-term issues, including air pollution, climate change, and the ensuing threat of global warming. The Obama Administration set policy priorities towards environmental protection, enacting and enforcing many regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency of the government of the United States dedicated to environment health, to decrease pollutants and climate change (Knickmeyer). Stressing the importance of environmental education and law compliance, as illustrated by a $2.8 billion fine against Volkswagen over diesel emission violations, the Obama Administration E.P.A. aimed to set energy-efficient standards and reduce environmental damage (Knickmeyer). Additionally, under President Obama, the United States signed the Paris Agreement, an ambitious goal set by more than 190 countries to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases, a major contributing factor towards global warming (“U.S.”). The Agreement sought to limit the increase in global temperatures by using clean energy resources and holding countries responsible for their contributions to climate change (“U.S”).

In direct contrast to the Obama Administration’s efforts to tackle climate change, the Trump Administration has aimed to reduce federal climate policies in favor of furthering the American economy (Plumer). Obama-era regulations such as the Clean Power Plan, which proposed a push away from coal and other nonrenewable sources of energy, have been swept aside and replaced by weaker business standards, such as for vehicles and coal plants, (Plumer). Under the Trump Administration, the E.P.A. has disallowed California’s former ability to regulate tailpipe emissions from vehicles, a program that played an integral role in reducing greenhouse gases and smog (Carlson). Looser vehicle regulations alone could add 83 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in ten years to the Earth’s atmosphere (Houser). Trump’s pollution regulations aim to allow American businesses to flourish without the inconvenience of having to prevent the destruction of the Earth’s environment (Carlson). The Trump Administration should not undo Obama-era environmental policies because the environment would be catastrophically harmed by America’s increased carbon emissions and the globe would lose America’s crucial leadership role in combating climate change, although having less environmental restrictions could conceivably strengthen America’s economy by cutting down on costs for businesses and creating jobs. By foregoing environmental protection in order to protect America’s interests, the Trump Administration is continuing its ideology of nationalism at the expense of other countries, as also seen with American protectionism and other international agreements.

If the Trump Administration were to successfully implement looser environmental standards, America’s carbon emissions would dramatically increase and ultimately amplify climate change and the threat towards humanity’s future as a whole. Climate change is an encompassing term for the complex shifts in long-term weather systems, resulting in global warming and extreme weather events such as natural disasters (Nunez). As more carbon dioxide, a “greenhouse” gas that absorbs light and traps heat, is added to the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activity, the Earth’s temperature is shifting higher and higher, degree by degree (Nunez). During Obama’s presidency, the United States decreased its total carbon dioxide emissions from nearly 1000 million metric tons to a total of 6511 million metric tons (Cushman). Despite this reassurance, in 2018, under the Trump Administration, U.S. carbon emissions rose by 3.4% (Plumer). This incline is a result of President Trump’s apparent disregard of the consequences of global warming and climate change (Plumer).

The short-term effects of global warming are apparent. California’s wildfires, once scary but still bearable, have turned cataclysmic. For weeks, people in California inhaled thick smoke, dusted off layers of ash, and even lost their lives to fires that have dramatically increased in size and severity (Taylor). The increase in global temperatures sucks moisture from plants and soil, creating the perfect dry environment for rapid and uncontrolled burning (Borunda). For an entire season, California was helpless to the fires that ravaged its homes, fires that burned because the United States failed to reduce its carbon emissions. In wetter areas, downpours and storms have strengthened, exemplified by hurricanes that devastated areas in[a]cluding the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast of the U.S. (Schwartz).

The long-term effects of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are catastrophically significant. Climate analytics have concluded that for every five years that climate change is insufficiently combatted, the sea level is doomed to rise eight more inches by the year 2300,a phenomenon known as the Committed Sea Level Rise (Mooney). The Antarctic ice shelf is already beginning to melt at an alarming rate of 245 billion tons per year on average (Mooney). As Trump rescinds Obama-era regulations and America fails to meet the targets set years ago, projected sea levels will bind the world to a grim destiny. The implications of present choices encompass disastrous changes to the Earth’s environment in the distant, but very real, future.

As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States has a responsibility to be a leader in climate change prevention. America has the ability to make an incredible impact on the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. The U.S. has the largest gross domestic product, at 19 million (GDP). In correlation, the United States has one of the largest carbon emission rates in the world at 14% of total emissions (Plumer). This is why it is imperative that the U.S. continues the Obama Administration’s efforts to lead the global movement in climate change. At the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, Obama pledged America to join 190 other countries in tackling climate change (“U.S.”). Under the Paris Agreement, countries set ambitious targets to reduce pollution and carbon emissions for themselves and promised to hold themselves accountable in a transparent system, coordinating their targets in hopes of a low-carbon future (“U.S.”). From 2014 to 2017, U.S. carbon emissions fell by 5%, by far the largest cut by any nation in terms of millions of tons, while in comparison, European Union emissions grew by 3% (Rautviki). The Obama Administration publicly set a national policy of reducing climate change. In contrast, the Trump Administration dropped out of the Paris Climate Agreement, rescinded Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and rolled back many environmental regulations for businesses (Plumer).

The Paris Climate Agreement was drawn with the factor that the United States would be a part of it (“U.S”). It was a show of universal cooperation towards working against climate change (“U.S.”). Without the support of America, it seems unlikely that even 2015’s goals to avoid 2 degrees Celsius of warming will be met (Plumer). America’s demonstration of its commitment and leadership was pivotal in the overarching fight against climate change (Plumer). Now that the U.S. has walked away, other nations may see their own regulations under the Paris Agreement as unfair and withdraw, ultimately undermining the entire point of the Conference (Plumer). Considering America’s dominating presence in the world, it not only makes sense but is fully necessary for the Trump Administration to make strides in the war against climate change.

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Some may argue that enforcing strict environmental standards is too costly for America’s economy. In a presidential statement, President Trump cited numerous disadvantages as the reason for dropping out of the Paris Climate Agreement (Trump). Regulating businesses and switching to non-renewable sources of energy can result in job loss (Trump). He argued that by adhering to the set targets, the United States was carrying a much greater financial and economic burden than other countries (Trump). Trump claimed that according to the National Economic Research Associates, complying with the Paris Accords agreements would cost America as many as 2.7 million jobs by 2025 (Trump). These jobs include manufacturing and automobile jobs, whose numbers would diminish by numbers greater than 500,000; paper, cement, iron, and steel industries would drop between 10 to 40% (Trump). The American economy would take a serious blow, losing at least 3 trillion dollars in GDP (Trump). Using the findings of this study done by the National Economic Research Associates[b], the disadvantages of continuing the progress made by the Obama Administration are clear. America’s economy would suffer under stricter environmental policy, but could flourish under a looser one.

The Obama Administration was characterized by its “war on coal” (Plott). President Obama ordered the shutdown of countless coal plants, and new coal leases on public land were temporarily banned (Lipton). Obama was viewed as intent on killing the coal industry entirely (Lipton). However, under the Trump Administration, the coal industry has made a minor resurgence (Lipton). Regulations on coal-powered plants were rolled back, allowing some coal plants to rejoin the market (Plumer). Randy Johnson, a veteran in the coal mining industry, reported gazing at trucks full of newly mined coal, describing a “Trump-sparked enthusiasm” (Plott). Under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his mining company was deprived of the business that had once brought him success (Plott). Others, such as Barry Chambers, a private contractor whose income relied on mines, lost their jobs and were put in millions of dollars of debt (Plott). Once Trump took presidency, Chambers referenced a “growing optimism that things would get better” felt by all members of his community (Plott). President Obama’s determination to diminish America’s coal industry ravaged the lives of countless Americans and left them jobless, but President Trump’s rollbacks have given them hope.

However, the renewable energy sector supplies millions of new job opportunities (Horn). The clean energy workforce grew by 12% in just the last year, and now outnumbers the coal industry’s workforce in 30 states (“Clean”). Although the coal industry has been declining, solar, wind, and hydropower energy job growth has been able to fill that gap. Renewable energy jobs employ over 800,000 people in the United States, and 9.8 million worldwide. Ultimately, the Obama Administration was creating more jobs than destroying them.

Furthermore, President Trump’s citations for dropping out of the Climate Agreement and rolling back business regulations are heavily controversial. In 2016, the Obama Administration estimated a cost of $50 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted (Plumer). Even this number was criticized for leaving out the cost of damages from wildfires and other natural disasters, and only considering harm to human health and coastal property (Plumer). In contrast, the Trump Administration estimated a cost of merely $7 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted (Plumer). By disregarding any factors outside of U.S. borders despite the fact that damage done in other countries would eventually affect the United States as well, the Trump Administration E.P.A. severely underestimated the cost of climate change (Plumer). The fatal effects of climate change will not overlook the United States. Any benefits that America is able to reap by not participating in environmental protections are minuscule in comparison to the global destruction that climate change will bring.

Furthermore, the renewable energy sector supplies millions of new job opportunities (Horn). The clean energy workforce grew by 12% in just the last year, and now outnumbers the coal industry’s workforce in 30 states (“Clean”). Although the coal industry has been declining, solar, wind, and hydropower energy job growth has fulfilled that gap. Renewable energy jobs employ over 800,000 people in the United States, and 9.8 million worldwide. In the long run, the Obama Administration was creating more jobs than destroying them.

Rolling back environmental regulations reflects President Trump’s use of nationalism as a policy throughout his presidency in order to boost America’s economy. Nationalism is the political ideology of solely supporting one’s own nation and its interests, often at the detriment of other nations (“Trade”). The Trump Administration’s raising of tariffs, taxes on products made abroad, and approaches to trade reflect a policy of protectionism, the practice of protecting a nation’s economy through negatively affecting foreign competition (Levinson). President Trump has levied taxes upward of 200 billion dollars on Chinese imports, accusing China of unfair trade practices that injure America’s economy (“Trade”). These tariffs are intended to raise domestic economic growth, but in doing so, China’s economy would also ultimately suffer, inclining them to raise tariffs of their own (“Trade”). This global trade war affects nations all around the world by raising prices for companies and pushing them onto consumers (“Trade”). President Trump’s tariffs have affected other countries as well, including India and South Korea (Levinson). These tariffs are pushing countries away from collaboration, negatively impacting many of the countries involved.

In addition to tariffs, the Trump Administration has made international agreements solely to further American interests. In a free trade agreement with South Korea, President Trump lifted tariffs on South Korean steel imports only in exchange for a cap on South Korean steel imports (Tankersley). His negotiations with South Korea would eventually harm the South Korean steel industry, which provides the third-largest exports for the U.S. (Tankersley). Additionally, although the tariff on steel imports was lifted, a 25% import tariff on Korean trucks was put in place (Tankersley). President Trump’s foreign policy was also heavily skewed in regards to the murder of U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi (“Trump”). At first, he refused to publicly comment on whether or not Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman had been involved in the murder, even after many world leaders and U.S. senators denounced Saudi Arabia for their ruler’s actions (“Trump”). Finally, in an Oval Office interview, he spoke about how Saudi Arabia was a “‘good ally’” to the United States and denied that Salman had any role in the journalist’s death (“Trump”). President Trump chose not to acknowledge the surmounting evidence in favor of keeping good trade relations with Saudi Arabia, instead of forcing the Crown Prince Salman to take responsibility for his corrupt actions and denouncing him (“Trump”). The Trump Administration’s focus is clearly exclusively on American interests, even at the expenditure of American morals, demonstrating its policy of nationalism at every level.

If President Trump were to fully roll back President Obama’s environmental policies, America’s carbon emissions would increase dangerously and the globe would be harmed by America’s lack of participation in combating climate change, although it would also bring about some economic benefits. The United States, along with every other nation in the world, must meet its emission targets if they do not wish to doom their planet to an uninhabitable future. The Trump Administration’s actions demonstrate a greater theme of nationalism even at the cost of other nations and our shared environment. The benefits of protecting the health of the planet outweighs financial and economic gain that would come about from disregarding it; President Trump would do well to follow the warnings for the sake of both America’s future and the world’s.

Works Cited

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