Donald Trump isn’t scrapping climate change laws to help the 'working man'. He’s doing it for the corporate oil lobby

The future president has a total disdain for environmental science and a knack for saying exactly what  disenfranchised victims of rust-belt deindustrialisation need to hear

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The Independent Online

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.” When Donald J Trump first tweeted this claim in November 2012 it could be easily dismissed as a delusional conspiracy theory promoted by an attention seeking reality star.

Policymakers around the world are now coming to terms with the fact that this is a good indication of the mindset of the president-elect of the USA, the country that has throughout history contributed the most to climate change.

Trump has become the loudest tribune of climate denial. "Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee - I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!” And again: "It’s snowing & freezing in NYC. What the hell ever happened to global warming?”

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Perhaps the delegates currently attending the United Nations FCCC climate talks currently taking place in Marrakech, Morocco, should not place too much weight on what Trump tweets, given his tendency to shoot from the hip. 

Yet these are not just flippant 3am spasms. They illustrate perfectly the future president’s disdain for environmental science and aptitude for saying exactly what the poor, disenfranchised victims of rust-belt deindustrialisation need to hear.

Trump outlined his “100 day action plan” on climate and energy at the Willison Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May this year. He wants to tear up the Paris climate agreement, defund UN climate programmes and, it seems, allow the Keystone XL pipeline to go ahead. 

“Here is what it comes down to. Wealth versus poverty,” was his pitch. He promises to “rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions” and “save the coal industry”. He adds: “Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers…will be scrapped.” 

The speech is a finely tuned dog whistle designed to rally the industrialised working class in the US against the environmental policies pursued by what is now firmly understood to be the out-of-touch, preaching, self-serving liberal elite.

Trump’s extraordinary reaction against environmental regulation is instinctive and impulsive: it has the ring of authenticity. But it echoes messages and lines which have been finely tuned and tested by think tanks and PR agencies funded by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry for the last three decades.

Jim M Inhofe, the Republican US Senator, as far back as 2003 described climate change as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He was then and now a member of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

In February 2015, Inhofe brought a snowball on to the Senate floor as proof that climate change was not taking place. Trump simply amplifies the message. 

According to the Open Secrets website, Inhofe has been a direct beneficiary of substantial political donations from fossil fuel industries. Oil and gas companies donated $481,450 to his campaign committee during the last five years. The biggest contributors are reported to be, according to the Open Secrets website, Devon Energy, Boeing and Murray Energy.

The climate denying senator has worked hand in hand with neoliberal think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received millions in financial support from ExxonMobil and the family owners of Koch Industries while perfecting the anti-science talking points. 

And now the CEI can carry out Trump's assault on environmental regulation. Myron Ebell has been named by Trump as his choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency. Ebell is the director of the Centre for Energy and Environment at the CEI. The fox has been handed the chicken coup. 

Trump, the billionaire heir, claims to represent the interests of the working man. In reality, he is a one-man lobbying machine for the corporate monopolies who own and control the US oil industry.

We have a problem in this “post-fact” world: the information about the close relationship between the corporations and the politicians does not filter down to, or resonate with, the forgotten workers of the American rust belt. 

Those who understand the urgency and the necessity of climate action and environmental regulation need to reconnect with workers. We Need to reassure them that we don’t want to take away their jobs. We want to protect their children, their families and their communities. 

Brendan Montague is managing director of Spinwatch, which examines corporate lobbying. He will be presenting a talk on oil industry attacks on climate science at the Royal Society on Monday, 14 November.