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Reactions to Trump Environment Plans: From Defiance to Welcome

Some environmentalists and climate scientists took stances ranging from outrage to hope for common ground, whereas some industry groups embraced the new administration on energy and environment.  

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Scientists, environmental leaders, and industry experts voiced widely varying responses this week to expected shifts in the country’s policies on climate change and other environment and resource development issues under U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

During a teleconference with reporters on Wednesday, analysts with Bracewell, a law and government relations firm serving the oil and gas, power, and other industries, said the Trump administration likely would favor less environmental regulations and promote fossil fuel energy development.

Bracewell senior counsel Salo Zelermyer, a former senior counsel in the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Energy (DOE) during the George W. Bush presidency, said Trump likely would work to revoke the Clean Power Plan, with which the Obama administration planned to cut energy production from coal to reach U.S. climate emission reduction goals. He said that some methane and fracking rules also could be targeted along with some energy efficiency standards that DOE has tightened under Obama, among other measures. Zelermyer said that Trump advisers have stated that the transition team “has detailed guides for rolling back regulations on an agency-by-agency basis.”

He added that Trump might not believe it is in his or the country’s interest to try to renegotiate or cancel the Paris climate agreement. “It would certainly use up lot of time and attention to try to cancel the agreement when there would really be no practical reason do so,” Zelermyer said, noting that the agreement doesn’t impose any legal obligations on the United States. “He can simply not pay attention to it.”

Environmentalists on Trump

Environmental leaders speaking at a separate briefing the same day in Washington, D. C., reacted to Trump’s election with defiance and vowed to fight any efforts to roll back environmental protections.

“The president-elect has claimed that [climate change] is a hoax. We are going to keep in his face to make sure that he understands that the public knows that climate change is real and needs solutions. We’ll be in the Congress, in the courts, in the boardroom, in the streets organizing the broad public that supports action on climate change,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the Washington, D.C.–based League of Conservation Voters.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Oakland, Calif.–based Sierra Club, said that Trump “must choose whether he will be a president remembered for putting America and the world back on a path to climate disaster or listening to the American public, investing in the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy, the clean energy sector, and keeping us on a path to climate progress.”

If Trump doesn’t “choose wisely,” he will face “the hardest fight of his political life,” Brune added.

Some environmentalists at the briefing hoped they might find some common ground with the new administration. Kevin Curtis, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund, said, “We don’t know what [Trump] stands for. He’s had multiple positions on multiple issues over the course of his campaign.” Curtis pledged to follow Secretary Clinton’s advice in her concession speech Tuesday night and approach the Trump government “with an open mind.” He said, “We have our goals, we know what the world needs, and we look forward to engaging in conversation.”

David Goldston, director of government affairs for NRDC, said infrastructure improvements, which Trump mentioned in his victory speech, could prove an area of common interest.

With regard to climate science, Trump told Fox News in a 29 October interview that “I’m a total believer in science but nothing is very conclusive.”

During the interview, Trump also said, “Now climate change, some people agree and some people don’t. I consider myself to be somewhat of an environmentalist, believe it or not.” He added, “But we can’t afford to be giving billions and billions of dollars away and restricting our businesses when other countries that we’re competing against don’t have those restrictions.”

Reaction from the Science Community

Some scientists also reacted sharply to expected Trump administration moves. It is “a nightmare” that has “put a climate denier in charge of the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] until they can kill it and derail potentially the Paris [climate] negotiations,” David Archer, professor of geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, told Eos.  The role of climate scientists during the Trump administration will be “staying out of jail, keeping research going, advocacy,” he added.

Climate scientist Robert Corell, principal at the Global Energy and Technology Foundation, told Eos that although Trump’s statements about climate change are disappointing, scientists need to be resilient and redouble their efforts regarding the issue. “Science is a very resilient world. Knowledge and the search for knowledge is ingrained in all of us. We won’t let that go,” he said.

Corell, former assistant director for the geosciences at the National Science Foundation, said that since the election, he and other scientists have discussed trying to work with Trump’s transition team on recommending Republican appointees at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and federal science agencies.

Swaying with Economic Arguments?

The executive director of RepublicEn, a Fairfax, Va.–based group that promotes free enterprise action on climate change, also expressed concern about the incoming administration’s stance on climate change. Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, told Eos that he fears that the United States “will abdicate its world leadership” on climate change during the Trump administration.

“The people who felt they had their backs against the wall, being pinned there by a big government solution to climate change now should feel empowered because they won,” said Inglis. “Maybe if we approach in humility and ask how could we do this together, maybe they could engage” in climate change efforts.

Inglis said he hopes that Trump could be swayed by economic arguments including RepublicEn’s advocacy for a revenue-neutral carbon tax that is “consistent with free enterprise growth principles.”

Industry Perspective

Since Trump’s surprise win Tuesday, several industry organizations released statements congratulating the now president-elect. Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association based in Washington, D. C., said the group looks forward to working with the new administration “on smart energy policies that protect the United States as the global leader in oil and natural gas production, development, and refining, as well as in reducing carbon emissions.”

—Randy Showstack, Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: The American Geophysical Union, publisher of Eos, has issued this statement about the election.

Citation: Showstack, R. (2016), Reactions to Trump environment plans: From defiance to welcome, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO062841. Published on 11 November 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
  • tolo4zero

    YOU can substantiate my facts by looking at (COOK) 2013, it does not claim 97% of scientists feel humans have changed the climate or its dangerous.
    Neither does Oreskes(2004)

    • feralcamero

      Here’s the abstract of the link I sent. It’s Cook et al, from their published work on the consensus from April of this year. Shall we let Cook et al speak for themselves?

      Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on
      human-caused global warming

      The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing
      climate scientists according to six independent studies by co-authors of this paper. Those results are
      consistent with the 97% consensus reported by Cook et al (Environ. Res. Lett. 8 024024) based on
      11,944 abstracts of research papers, of which 4014 took a position on the cause of recent global
      warming. A survey of authors of those papers(N = 2412 papers) also supported a 97% consensus. Tol
      (2016 Environ. Res. Lett. 11 048001) comes to a different conclusion using results from surveys of non-
      experts such as economic geologists and a self-selected group of those who reject the consensus. We
      demonstrate that this outcome is not unexpected because the level of consensus correlates with
      expertise in climate science. At one point, Tol also reduces the apparent consensus by assuming that
      abstracts that do not explicitly state the cause of global warming (‘no position’)represent non-
      endorsement, an approach that if applied elsewhere would reject consensus on well-established
      theories such as plate tectonics. We examine the available studies and conclude that the finding of 97%
      consensus in published climate research is robust and consistent with other surveys of climate
      scientists and peer-reviewed studies.

      • tolo4zero

        97% of 32% humans causing warming, nothing about humans causing dangerous climate change.
        Both you and Obama are wrong.
        Tell the truth.

  • davidlaing

    Please Google “Interesting Climate Sensitivity Analysis,” which clearly explains, on the basis of hard data, why greenhouse warming theory is wrong.

    • feralcamero

      And again, please cite your source for such a wild claim here. Telling people to Google a term is not sufficient.

      You are likely just reading Denialist propaganda/misinformation.

      If you understand how science works, there is a long dialogue on the topic of man-made Global Warming where we define what we know and try to understand and characterize what we don’t know. Claims are supported by evidence and the theory is substantiated my multiple lines of converging evidence (called consilience).

      The deniers, have no idea how big a project they are taking on if they want to take down AGW theory scientifically. You can play the propaganda game all you want and try to misinform the public, but you are not doing science.

      • davidlaing

        Well, hello again, feralcamero! No. I have no need to waste my time reading denialist propaganda. Do you? I also understand very well how science works, thank you very much, having been at it for over sixty years.

        As a matter of fact, I do recognize the great value of consilience, and I use it as an indicator that I’m on the right track whenever I come out with a new hypothesis. I go beyond that, however, and always make sure that my hypotheses conform to hard data from the Earth system, which is unfortunately not the case with greenhouse warming. Only two hard-data tests have been done on the latter in 115 years, the first in 1900 by Knut Angstrom and the second by me in 2015. Both came to essentially the same conclusion, that increases in atmospheric CO2 have very little effect on temperature. Beyond this, greenhouse warming theory is just that, unsubstantiated theory. “Consensus” counts for nothing in science. Either something is right or it is wrong, period.

        Since you apparently don’t want to go to the trouble of Googling my work, I’ll summarize it for you by pointing out that my hard-data synthesis shows that the maximum variation in northern hemisphere CO2 occurs in May, two months later than the maximum in temperature anomalies in March, and therefore could not cause them. Ozone depletion, however, also peaks in March, so, by permitting increased UV-B irradiance, it could well be a cause of warming.

        • feralcamero

          David,

          Are you not able to produce a citation from a refereed journal? Was your “conclusion” ever published. How was it received by your scientific peers? I assume you are a scientist. But even if you are not a degreed scientist, you can still get thorough work published if it is meticulous, doesn’t draw unsubstantiated conclusions and shows the work that gathered the evidence, so that others can repeat it.

          Your claim that CO2 is not a Greenhouse gas is a tremendously wild claim. Great claims require great evidence, or they are merely wild speculation.

          • davidlaing

            No, I’m sorry, but I can’t produce a citation from a peer-reviewed journal. Those that I’ve submitted my work to so far (each one requires a re-write to their specifications!) have rejected it without comment, presumably because it differs from established theory. There’s not much point in submitting it to an obscure journal because it would simply be overlooked. It was published by WattsUpWithThat?, the leading “skeptical” blog, and several other such sites have picked it up since. I send it to key people.

            I hold a master’s from Harvard and am All-But-Dissertation at the University of Arizona, but that was a long time ago. I’m also the author of the text, “The Earth System,” 1991, Wm C Brown, 590 pp. I do think I was as meticulous as possible in putting this study together, and it should be replicable.

            I know my claim seems outrageous, given the general acceptance of greenhouse warming theory. All I can say is that when my colleague told me he had carefully examined over 10,000 peer-reviewed climate-related journals and found only one hard-data-based test of AGW (which I had accepted previously), I was so alarmed that I performed my own study from available hard data and came out with essentially the same result as Angstrom did, 115 years ago. As I said, my colleague found no evidence of any data-based confirming studies on AGW (there were lots on absorption characteristics of CO2, but none on the mechanism of warming). It seems, then, that the inescapable conclusion is that the theory of greenhouse warming is completely unsupported by hard evidence.

            • feralcamero

              David,

              Sorry, I do not consider “Watts up with that” a reputable source on any topic worth discussing, let alone science. They are a right wing denialist propaganda site.

              Assuming you are an honest skeptic and not merely a Denialist awash in confirmation bias, I’ll share the following materials, though honestly, you should have already read the literature before proposing answers to questions that have already been answered and substantiated by strong evidence via multiple studies and lines of inquiry.

              Do you understand why Angstrom was considered wrong on the science?

              Can’t you imagine that the U.S. military has studied radiation absorption across the layers of our atmosphere for obvious reasons?

              Can’t you imagine that the questions you are asking have already been more than sufficiently answered? Is it not somewhat delusional to think that you alone have discovered a fatal flaw in the most basic of science that has long been replicated the world over and over time? Or is it more likely that you have made a similar mistake to the one Angstrom made?

              The way science works, you would have to reference the foundational science that lays the groundwork for our modern understanding of greenhouse gases and how our atmosphere behaves with varying quantities of these gases at different temperatures and elevation. You would then need to prove that they are wrong. At this late stage, this would be akin to challenging the theory that the Earth is spheroidal with a hypothesis that it is indeed planar. Perhaps a fossil fuel company would be willing to fund some physical research on your part, in the hope of sowing more doubt in the public’s mind.

              Please read the following backgrounders on C02 as a greenhouse gas and why Angstrom’s result was wrong. This very well could be why no one will take your thesis seriously.

              http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/06/a-saturated-gassy-argument/?wpmp_tp=1

              Be sure to read Part I and Part II.

              I am not going to rehash the minutiae of this science in a comments section. It is not the right forum. Head over to RealClimate.org if you want to speak with those who can point out the error you appear to be making.

              Everything you need to discover your mistake is readily available online, but you would have to be driven beyond “being right” at the expense of the world’s best science in order to find the fault in your own reasoning.

  • Einstein

    No, mr trump is totally wrong, as are many of the advisors he has around him. No scientists any more??? Bob, what are your credentials to make such a totally bogus, nonsensical statement invoking the 2nd law of thermodynamics? Unless you are a PhD physicist or chemist, you are likely just quoting one of the climate change deniers or better known as the “merchants of doubt.”

    • davidlaing

      Mr. Einstein, may I suggest that you Google “Interesting Climate Sensitivity Analysis” for a perspective, based on hard data from the Earth system, that is quite different from yours? The fact is that the notion that carbon dioxide causes warming is theoretical only, and hard data tests of that theory (of which there have been only two in 115 years) have shown it to be incorrect. No hard data tests of AGW have ever been done (a search of the pertinent literature confirms this), so there is actually no basis for the theory whatsoever.

  • tolo4zero

    The hoax is that climate change is a threat.
    Obama lied about the Cook(2013) paper claiming 97% of scientist say climate change is caused by humans and dangerous, the paper never said that at all, the figures show less than 1% of the papers feel AGW is 50% or over.
    None of the scientific academies corrected Obama.

  • bob ashworth

    Trump is right, climate change is a hoax. It violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Heat transfer is from a hotter surface to a colder surface, never vise-versa. No scientists it seem any more.

    • feralcamero

      You are fundamentally miss-applying thermodynamics here. Re-read your physics books.

      What boggles the mind, is that there are people who do not grasp basic cause and effect, let alone physics. Humans are pumping (via combustion) gigatons of carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere every year (now up to ~27 gigatons/year) and have been doing so for many decades. We can measure the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. We know we, and not volcanoes, put this carbon there due to isotopic signatures that tie it to human combustion of fossil fuels.

      You appear to hold science in high regard. Read up on science with an open mind (very difficult to do, due to our predispositions and biases we get from right wing media programming these days) it should start to make sense how humans are indeed causing global climate change and are putting civilization at great risk.

      • bob ashworth

        I am an old chemical engineer who has been doing mass and energy balances most of my life. Warming of the earth did occur because CFCs destroyed ozone in the stratosphere. It cooled some 1.4 C and earth warmed 0.5 C. from 1960 to 2000 from more radiation hitting it. CFC production was then banned and the temperature has not risen since. Also man adds very little CO2 to the atmosphere, of the 400 ppmv up there now man has contributed about 3% or ~ 12 ppmv ( UN report 2001). The rest comes from nature and the 2 ppmv increase each year was caused form the oceans warming, reducing CO2 solubility. Although they are wrong EPA has an equation that predicts the reduction in earth temperature will be 0.018C by 2100. CFCs will diminish and the earth temperature will reduce by about 0.5C by 2100. Gina McCarthy told congress the Clean Coal plan wasn’t about pollution control but about investment opportunity and two people from the UN Figures and another person said it wasn`t about pollution control either. As I said not many real scientists who analyze data out there anymore. People just blabber.

        • feralcamero

          Bob, you are conflating anecdotal evidence with peer reviewed science.

          We have found the smoking gun and it’s humans, not nature. If you are not familiar with the isotopic evidence linking human activity to the carbon we found increasing in our atmosphere, see:
          Stuiver, M., Burk, R. L. and Quay, P. D. 1984. 13C/12C ratios and the transfer of biospheric carbon to the atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res. 89, 11,731-11,748.
          Francey, R.J., Allison, C.E., Etheridge, D.M., Trudinger, C.M., Enting, I.G., Leuenberger, M., Langenfelds, R.L., Michel, E., Steele, L.P., 1999. A 1000-year high precision record of d13Cin atmospheric CO2. Tellus 51B, 170–193.
          Quay, P.D., B. Tilbrook, C.S. Wong. Oceanic uptake of fossil fuel CO2: carbon-13 evidence. Science 256 (1992), 74-79