Donald Trump, who once mocked the very idea of global climate change, is set to deliver a speech touting his record on the environment, and the supposed leadership America has had on that issue during his presidency.
The speech comes amid a massive rollback of environmental regulations, with more than 80 protections slashed in the two years since Mr Trump took office.
In addition, the president has installed climate change deniers and oil and gas industry allies in the top echelons of his government. That includes climate change denier William Happer, of the White House’s National Security Council, as well as cabinet members like interior secretary David Bernhardt, whose previous work included lobbying on behalf of fossil fuel companies. Andrew Wheeler, the current chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, also worked for fossil fuel interests before joining the Trump administration.
The speech will “recognise his administration’s environmental leadership and America’s role in leading the world,” a White House official told The Guardian during a preview of the address last week.
The official said that Mr Trump plans to tout America’s clean air and water, in spite of the country’s mediocre record on the issue compared to other major countries.
So, as the president prepares to deliver his speech, here are some key things to keep in mind:
- The Trump administration has rolled back 83 environmental rules since January 2017. An analysis by the New York Times found that a total of 22 of those rollbacks target air pollution and emissions rules, and 18 target oil and gas drilling or extraction rules. Meanwhile, another 13 have to do with infrastructure, 10 concern animals, five have to do with toxic substances, and relate to water pollution. There are eight other regulations that have been targeted.
- While Mr Trump and his administration have touted America’s water and air as some of the cleanest in the world, the US actually ranks 37th dirtiest on that scale out of 195 countries for ozone, or smog. That’s according to the nonprofit Health Effects Institute’s State of Global Air report form 2019.
- During the first two years of Mr Trump’s presidency, according to the Associated Press, the US had more days of unhealthy air than during the final four years of Barack Obama’s presidency.
- The Trump administration has embarked on an effort to significantly change the rule defining which wetlands and waterways get Clean Water Act protections — also known as the waters of the US rule. The changes would erase protections for 51 per cent of wetlands, and 18 per cent of streams that don’t have relatively permanent surface water connection to nearby waterways, according to an analysis by the US Geological Survey. That could have a significant impact for wetlands, which are protected waterways because they are important pollution filters, wildlife habitats and storm water buffers.
- The Trump administration has pushed to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era energy regulations that sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The Trump administration has introduced its own rule to replace it — the Affordable Clean Energy rule — that would still reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to doing nothing, but the US Environmental Protection Agency itself estimates that there would be 1,400 more deaths each year from environmental quality issues compared to the previous rule.
- The Trump administration has begun the process — or at least claimed to have started the process — of pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, the landmark international climate agreement that Barack Obama had put significant effort into developing. If the US is successful in pulling out of the deal, it could leave the country as the only nation in the world not party to it (Nicaragua and Syria, the two holdouts previously, have both signalled their intention to join).
- Since January 2017, Mr Trump and his administration have pushed forward with offshore drilling leasing, and regulations rollbacks, including efforts to reduce safety regulations that were put into place after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Mr Trump has also overseen efforts to expand drilling in the Arctic, and to open up areas of US coastline for offshore drilling that have never been open to that drilling before, including off the Atlantic coast and off of the coast of Florida.
- Meanwhile, the administration has pushed forward with plans to open up large swaths of land in the US to drilling. More than 1.5 million acres were leased for drilling last year alone, including in portions of the US that are seen as integral to US wildlife management, areas that are considered national treasures, and areas of historical significance to Native Americans.
- The Trump administration has embarked on an effort to clean up marine debris, much of that coming from Asia.
- The Trump administration has helped to secure funding to restore the Florida Everglades, which are severely threatened by climate change and could put nearby communities like Miami in great danger as sea levels rise.
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