Top 10 Reasons Why the Trump Administration is the Worst Ever for Wildlife

 Jim Cumming

In tonight’s State of the Union address, it is likely that President Trump will talk about national security, immigration, job growth, and infrastructure. But there is little chance that he will address other vital issues of our time, including climate change, wildlife conservation, and clean water.

“It’s clear that the Trump administration fundamentally does not value wildlife, wild places, clean air and water and a livable climate,” said Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Rather than build on America’s extraordinary conservation legacy, this administration has placed the power of the federal government at the disposal of those who seek to exploit and degrade our land, water, air, wildlife and people.”

According to The New York Times, the Trump administration has rolled back more than 95 environmental regulations, often citing them as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. Of the many anti-environmental actions taken by this administration, the following 10 policy changes have been most detrimental to wildlife and the places they live:

1. Imperiled Species: The Trump administration finalized its sweeping rewrite of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that undermine the conservation of threatened and endangered species in August 2019. The Department of the Interior’s new regulations will eliminate key protections for threatened species, weaken bedrock consultation requirements, open the door to burdensome and inappropriate cost-benefit analyses that risk politicizing the ESA’s science-based listing process, and much more. Learn More.

2. Migratory Birds: The administration proposed formal regulations to cement into law a hotly disputed legal opinion declaring that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) does not need to protect migratory birds from harm caused by industrial activities. This has dramatically undercut the law’s ability to conserve birds. Learn More.

3. National Monuments: In December 2017, President Trump signed proclamations that decimated two national monuments in Utah – Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. And the president’s threat of downsizing or reducing protections remains for as many as eight other national monuments around the country. Learn More.

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Black-footed Ferret

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J. Michael Lockhart/USFWS

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Snowy Owl

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Jim Cumming

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Bears Ears National Monument

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Bob Wick/BLM

4. Marine Life: The Trump administration has reversed direction and permitted the use of seismic air guns for gas and oil exploration in the Atlantic Ocean. The practice, which can kill marine life and disrupt fisheries, had previously been blocked by the Obama administration. Learn More.

5. Clean Water: The administration revoked a rule recognizing federal responsibility to protect for streams that provide clean drinking water and wetlands that provide sanctuary for wildlife. This reversal was formalized in the Waters of the United States, or “WOTUS” rule in January 2020. Learn more.

6. Public Lands: The Trump administration opened 9 million acres of western public land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the greater sage-grouse, an imperiled bird known for its elaborate mating dance. This move is now only temporarily deterred by an Idaho District Court injunction blocking the administration’s “Energy Dominance” agenda. Learn more.

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Humpback whale breaching

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Raj Das

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Whiteoak Canyon Shenandoah National Park

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N Lewis/NPS

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Sage grouse

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Jennifer Strickland/USFWS

7. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Responding to a sneaky legislative rider passed in Congress in 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is preparing plans to lease the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil and gas industry. This destructive, illegitimate program is being rushed through, ignoring key scientific evidence and the law.  BLM’s actions could jeopardize the survival of an indigenous culture, wildlife and the future of the most imperiled polar bear population in the world. Learn more.

8. Climate Change: In 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that cripples our ability to take action on the global threat of climate change. This was quickly followed by an effort to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, among dozens of other climate change policies revised, reversed and dissolved under this administration.  In January, the Trump administration proposed rules that would allow federal agencies to ignore climate impacts of their actions in environmental reviews. Learn more.

9. Border Wall: In December 2019, Congress unveiled $1.4 billion in funding to build the border wall. When built, a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico will fragment vital ecosystems and landscapes, threatening wildlife and people. Thousands of scientists from around the world agree that building a border wall will be devastating to North America’s biodiversity. Defenders has requested U.S. Supreme Court review of federal court rulings that have allowed the Trump administration to waive dozens of environmental, health and safety laws to speed construction of border wall. Learn more.

10. Evaluation: The Trump administration targeted the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in January 2020 in order to fast track development and infrastructure projects like highways and pipelines. NEPA ensures that federal agencies publicly evaluate the environmental effects of their actions. Rolling it back will only expose the American people and environment to serious harm and dirty our water, clean air and environment. Learn more.

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Sheenjek River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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Alexis Bonogofsky/USFWS

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Polar bears

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Cheryl Strahl

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Ocelot

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Aussieanouk/stock.adobe.com

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Bison Calf walks on road in Yellowstone National Park

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Jacob W. Frank/NPS

Reversing and weakening regulations to fossil fuel development and other damaging impacts has been a hallmark of President Trump’s economic agenda. Defenders and partners are fighting every day against the Trump administration’s actions that imperil wildlife, degrade habitat and threaten communities. We’re in the courts. We’re tracking policy. We’re making sure citizens are aware. But with 10 mon

A ‘dream’ deer hunt with Donald Trump Jr. is being auctioned by a trophy hunting group

Lara Trump (L), her husband Eric Trump (2L) and Kimberly Guilfoyle (R) listen to Donald Trump Jr. speak during a "Keep Iowa Great" press conference in Des Moines, Iowa, on February 3, 2020.

(CNN)Donald Trump Jr. has been condemned by animal rights organizations for promising to take an auction winner on a seven-day hunting trip to Alaska, in a sale organized by a trophy hunting group.

The yacht-based expedition will see Trump Jr., his son and the auction winner kill black-tailed deer and sea ducks, according to the auction site.
Bidding for the trip had surpassed $10,000 at the time of writing. The auction, hosted by Safari Club International (SCI), also includes trips to kill buffalo in Zimbabwe and to shoot an elephant in Namibia.
The expedition is set to take place in November — the same month that Trump’s father will seek reelection.
“This year we will be featuring Donald Trump Jr., a man who needs no introduction, and who’s [sic] passion for the outdoors makes him the number one ambassador for our way of life,” the listing reads.
An advert for the hunt with Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. is an avid hunter, who regularly posts images of himself with weapons on his social media feeds.
Photos posted in 2012 by the website Gothamist show him holding an elephant tail, which the website said were from a 2011 hunt in Zimbabwe.
Trump has been condemned for those activities in the past by animal welfare groups, and many also criticized the sale by the SCI on Tuesday.
“Advertised as a ‘dream hunt,’ this hunting trip will be nothing but a nightmare for the Sitka black-tailed deer and sea ducks who find themselves in the gun sights of Donald Trump Jr. and whomever purchases this sick thrill,” Jeff Flocken, president of Humane Society International, told CNN.
He added: “Killing for fun is not moral. And it’s not conservation. Period.”
The auction is timed to coincide with SCI’s annual convention which begins on Wednesday in Nevada. Reports have suggested that Trump Jr. will speak at the event. CNN has contacted SCI and the Trump Organization for comment.
SCI campaigns against efforts to ban trophy hunting imports around the world and has argued that trophy hunting “helps wildlife and local economies.”
The decision to allow some imports came after a public backlash to the rollback of Obama-era restrictions on importing trophies of elephants and lions from some African countries by the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
On Monday, Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson urged fans to boycott a performance at the group’s conference by his former band, saying he is “emphatically opposed” to trophy hunting.
He tweeted the link to a petition against the performance, adding that there was “nothing we can do personally to stop the show.”

Viewpoint: Protect African wildlife with a state trophy ban

President Donald Trump’s idea of “Make America Great Again” is making it easier for wealthy American trophy hunters like his sons, who are unfazed by six-digit price tags, to slaughter vulnerable, threatened and endangered wildlife. It is more than time for New York state — the biggest port of entry for wildlife trophies — to take steps towards ending this cruel industry.

Donald Trump Jr.’s latest hunting escapade in Mongolia — where he shot a rare endangered Argali sheep, and only received a permit to do so after the kill, on a trip last August that also included some schmoozing with the Mongolian president — is evidence of the unfair system that leaves vulnerable animal species prey to wealthy Americans, including New Yorkers who hunt African wildlife.

From 2005 to 2014, 159,144 animals were imported into New York as trophies — including 1,541 lions; 1,130 elephants and 83 pairs of tusks; 1,169 leopards, and 110 white rhinos and three pairs of horns.

Last year the state Senate passed the Big 5 African Trophies Act, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-Bronx, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan. It would ban the importation, possession, sale or transportation of the trophies of African giraffes, leopards, lions, elephants, and black and white rhinos and their body parts throughout New York — all threatened and endangered species.

The thousands of dollars in fees hunters pay to safari companies does little to help protect these animals. Studies show that less than 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting returns to the communities. Meanwhile, the population of elephants has declined by 90 percent in the past century, with losses attributed to the commodification of elephants for their ivory and skin. This is in addition to the challenges they face from habitat destruction and climate change. There are fewer than 23,000 lions left in Africa, according to a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford, The number of Argali sheep has plummeted more than 60 percent, with just 18,000 remaining in Mongolia.

And while permits by countries that allow the hunting, and permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency to hunt threatened and endangered species and import the dead body parts of the animals killed overseas, are supposed to regulate the industry to ensure a species’ survival, the truth is obtaining the permits are often a matter of political influence and the only difference between “illegal” poachers and trophy hunters with permits is wealth and political connections.

New York City Councilman Keith Powers has introduced a resolution supporting the state trophy ban legislation. The council should approve it, and the state Assembly should act in its upcoming session to end the imports here. New York should lead the nation in standing up for vulnerable species who belong in the wild, not on walls.

Priscilla Feral is the president of Friends of Animals, an international, nonprofit animal advocacy organization.

Trump’s Presidency Brings Us Closer to Midnight on the Doomsday Clock

 

The legendary Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), which tracks issues related to technology and global security, has issued a terrifying warning: We are less than two minutes to midnight on the Doomsday clock. It’s very bad news, representing “the most dangerous situation that humanity has ever faced.”

What makes this moment so perilous? The scientists’ statement includes warnings over the cyber-weaponization of information, the spread of artificial intelligence (AI) in making military decisions, the destruction of treaties meant to limit the spread of nuclear weapons, the abandonment of global agreements to limit climate chaos, the spread of genetic engineering and synthetic biology technologies, and more. It does not account for the escalated likelihood of atomic reactor disasters, but based on at least one BAS publication, it should.

Since 1947, this prestigious band of elite scientists and global thinkers has been putting out a “clock” meant to time the peril of a global apocalypse. First issued at the dawn of the Cold War, it has mostly focused on the dangers of atomic warfare. Its countdown to Armageddon has been set as far away as 17 minutes from midnight, a hypothetical time of human extinction. That relatively optimistic assessment came in 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the definitive end of the Cold War.

In 2018, the BAS set it at two minutes, the closest to catastrophe it had ever been. They repeated that estimate in 2019. But this year’s announcement has taken us inside the two-minute warning with a hair-raising litany of likely lethal catastrophes set to occur within 100 theoretical seconds.

Donald Trump is mentioned only once by name, in conjunction with his decision to trash the Paris Accords on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. The scientists urge “whoever wins the 2020 election” to reinstate the U.S. commitment limiting carbon and other climate-destroying emissions. The BAS also cites Brazilian dictator Jair Bolsonaro for his decision to allow the destruction of the Amazon, with huge impacts on climate.

The BAS strives to maintain a non-partisan image. But Trump’s presence in the White House clearly hangs over any assessment of humankind’s survivability. The specter of his finger on the nuclear, ecological and financial buttons for the next four years hangs over humankind like a pall but goes otherwise unmentioned in this Doomsday assessment.

Also unmentioned is the question of more than 450 atomic power reactors worldwide. A small but vocal outlier coterie has argued that nuclear energy combats global warming by emitting less carbon that coal burners. But the Bulletin recently enshrined a major assessment by the esteemed Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, warning that commercial reactors pose a serious threat to human survival on this planet.

Published in August 2019, “The false promise of nuclear power in an age of climate change” argues that the 450 atomic reactors now deteriorating worldwide pose an existential threat to our survival. Writing with Professor Naomi Oreskes, Lifton warns that atomic energy “is expensive and poses grave dangers to our physical and psychological well-being.” Citing costs of nuclear juice at $100 per megawatt-hour versus $50 for solar and $30-40 for onshore wind, the authors say that the industry suffers from a “negative learning curve,” driving nuke costs constantly higher while those for renewables head consistently down.

Citing the unsolved problem of radioactive waste management, the BAS article warns of the ongoing impacts of major disasters like Fukushima and Chernobyl (and potentially more to come), whose fallout kills humans and does untold damage to the global ecology. Lipton and Oreskes say we need to free ourselves “from the false hope that a technology designed for ultimate destruction” can lead to our salvation. They favor making “renewable energies integral to the American way of life.”

In addition to nuclear and climate issues, the 2020 Doomsday assessment emphasizes some relatively new concerns. “In the last year,” it says, “many governments used cyber-enabled disinformation campaigns to sow distrust in institutions and among nations, undermining domestic and international efforts to foster peace and protect the planet.”

By attacking both science and the fabric of international peace accords, some global leaders have created “a situation that will, if unaddressed, lead to catastrophe, sooner rather than later.”

That situation includes AI and hypersonic warfare, both escalating “at a frenzied pace.” Now used in ultra-fast attacks, AI is dangerously vulnerable to “hacking and manipulation” while making “kill decisions without human supervision.” In nuclear command and control systems, the BAS warns, research and experience have demonstrated the vulnerability of these systems to “hacking and manipulation.”

This is an absolutely terrifying brew. The spread of disinformation, the contempt for science and expert opinion, the undermining of global agreements on arms control, and climate change are all deadly. Add in the new world of AI and hyper-sonic warfare, then pile on autocrats like Trump and Bolsonaro, and finish with the certainty of more disasters from 450 crumbling, obsolete atomic reactors.

All in all, it’s small wonder the Bulletin has taken us past the two-minute warning. It will clearly take every ounce of our activist strength to save our species from the final

 

whistle.

 

 


 

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires

A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California.
 A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change.

James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.

Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and manipulated the data.

A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging.
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 A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging. Photograph: Rafe Hanson

The emails add to concerns that the Trump administration is doing industry’s bidding rather than pursuing the public interest. Across agencies, top positions are filled by former lobbyists, and dozens of investigative reports have revealed agencies working closely with major industries to ease pollution, public health and safety regulations.

A USGS spokesperson said Reilly’s emails were “intended to instruct the subject matter expert to do the calculations as quickly as possible based on the best available data at the time and provide results in clear understandable language that the Secretary could use to effectively communicate to a variety of audiences.” The agency added that it “stands by the integrity of its sience”

When forests burn, they do emit greenhouse gases. But one expert said the numbers the interior department put forth are significant overestimates. They say logging wouldn’t necessarily help prevent or lessen wildfires. On the contrary, logging could negate the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide humans are emitting at record rates.

Chad Hanson, a California-based forest ecologist who co-founded the John Muir Project and a lawyer who has opposed logging after fires, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a “blatant political manipulation of science”.

Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said while it’s normal for the department to want to quantify emissions from fires, it’s unclear whether they began the process with a particular figure in mind.

He said the resulting quotes from top officials and press releases from the department are “about what you would expect from agencies trying to justify actions they already decided to take with minimal analysis”.

Harmon added that “the effect of logging on fires is highly variable,” depending on how it is done and the weather conditions.

Not long after the interior department came up with its carbon emission estimates from the 2018 California wildfires, Trump issued an executive order instructing federal land managers to significantly increase the amount of timber they harvest. This fall, he also proposed allowing logging in Alaska’s Tongass national forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.

Trump has also tweeted multiple times about wildfires, saying they are caused by bad land management or environmental laws that make water unavailable.

Monica Turner, a fire ecology scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “it is climate that is responsible for the size and severity of these fires”.

An Interior department spokesperson said the department’s role is to follow the laws and use the best science and that it continues “to work to best understand and address the impacts of an ever-changing climate.”

Agency officials started emphasizing wildfire emissions data as a talking point as early as August 2018.

In an email chain that month, Reilly was asked by interior’s former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes to sign off on a statement that fires in 2018 had emitted 95.6m tons of CO2.

“Interesting statistics,” Reilly responded, noting that emissions would vary based on the types of trees on the land. “…We assumed woodlands mix since we don’t currently have details on the overall land cover types involved. Any variance to the fuel type will still leave it in the range to make the comparison, however. I’ll use this one if you don’t object. Makes a good story.”

Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California.
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 Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Reilly, who was confirmed to his position in April 2018, later asked career scientists at the agency for updated numbers, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I need to get a number for total CO2 releases for the recent CA fires and a comparison against emissions for all energy in US … Tasker from the boss; back to me ASAP,” he said on 10 October 2018. His boss at the time was the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke.

The job fell to Doug Beard, the director of the National Climate Adaptation Science Center, and Bradley Reed, an associate program coordinator in the Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program, who responded with numbers from his team that afternoon.

In November 2018, Reilly once again asked for the same estimates of carbon dioxide generated by two devastating fires that fall in California – the Camp and Woolsey fires.

“The Secretary likes to have this kind of information when he speaks with the media,” Reilly said in a 16 November email to David Applegate, the associate director for natural hazards.

Applegate directed Beard to get the numbers, and Reilly chimed in, asking Beard: “Can you have [the scientists] gin up an estimate on the total CO2 equivalent releases are so far for the current 2 fires in CA?” He said he wanted to compare the figures to the carbon pollution caused by transportation in California.

“That would make a decent sound bite the Sec could use to put some perspective on it,” said Reilly.

Just a week earlier, the ferocious Camp fire had destroyed Paradise, California, killing dozens and becoming the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. The scenes detailed were horrific.

Conservatives have insisted that the wildfires are happening because environmentalists have overzealously encouraged the conservation of forests. Trump has battled with California – the face of the American progressive movement he opposes – over a multitude of other issues, including the state’s longstanding climate policy of requiring new cars to go farther on less fuel.

The new emails show communications staffers and political appointees using government scientists as foot soldiers in those battles.

‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said.
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 ‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Now, under the leadership of the former lobbyist David Bernhardt, the agency has sought to remove consideration of climate change from many of its decisions, while expanding oil and gas drilling on federal land. Multiple whistleblowers have accused the department of stifling climate science.

Bernhardt in a May 2019 hearing told lawmakers there are no laws obligating him to combat climate change.

After Reilly asked his staff to calculate the wildfire emissions numbers in November, an interior spokeswoman emailed him asking for the same information so she could put out a statement from Zinke. A few days later, the agency published a press release on Zinke’s behalf, with the title “New Analysis Shows 2018 California Wildfires Emitted as Much Carbon Dioxide as an Entire Year’s Worth of Electricity.”

“There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said. “Proper management of our forests, to include small prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and other techniques, will improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, while also helping curb the carbon emissions.”

Hanson, the forest and fire ecologist, said that in addition to using the government data for political purposes, the department numbers overstated the carbon emissions from forest fires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels.

He said that the carbon emissions numbers generated by USGS and released to the public were an “overestimate” that “can’t be squared with empirical data” from field studies of post-wildfire burn sites in California. Other scientists the Guardian spoke with did not dispute the government’s data, but did find fault with the way it was presented to the public.

“The comparison of fire to electrical emissions [in California] was not explained or justified”, said Harmon, the Oregon State University scientist. “Picking other sectors would have left an entirely different image in the reader’s mind…If the comparison had been made nationally it would have been found that fire related emissions of carbon dioxide were equivalent to 1.7% of fossil fuel related emissions. So it is hard to escape the conclusion that some cherry picking was going on.”

Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the emails are another example of the administration “trying to find ways to tell a story to achieve industry goals”.

“As wildfire experts have repeatedly explained, you can’t log or even ‘rake’ our way out of this mess,” O’Neill said. “The Trump administration and the interior department are pushing mystical theories that are false in order to justify gutting public land protections to advance their pro-industry and lobbyist dominated agenda.”

What does Trump actually believe on climate change?

Graphic showing a collection of quotes Donald Trump has made on climate change

US President Donald Trump’s position on climate change has been in the spotlight again, after he criticised “prophets of doom” at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

At the event, which had sustainability as its main theme, and activist Greta Thunberg as its star guest, Mr Trump dismissed “alarmists” who wanted to “control every aspect of our lives” – while also expressing the US’s support for an initiative to plant one trillion trees.

If you judge the president based on his words alone, his views on climate change appear contradictory – and confusing.

He has called climate change “mythical”, “nonexistent”, or “an expensive hoax” – but also subsequently described it as a “serious subject” that is “very important to me”.

Still – if you sift through his multitude of tweets and statements, a number of themes emerge.

In 2009, Mr Trump actually signed a full-page advert in the New York Times, along with dozens of other business leaders, expressing support for legislation combating climate change.

“If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet,” the statement said.

But in the years that followed, he took an opposite approach on Twitter, with more than 120 posts questioning or making light of climate change.

In 2012, he famously said climate change was “created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive” – something he later claimed was a joke.

He regularly repeated claims that scientists has rebranded global warming as climate change because “the name global warming wasn’t working” (in fact, both terms are used, but experts at Nasa have argued that climate change is the more scientifically accurate term).

And he also has dozens of tweets suggesting that cold weather disproves climate change – despite the World Meteorological Organization saying that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years.

How years compare with the 20th Century average

(If you can’t see this chart tap or click here)

He has tweeted less about climate change in recent years – and, since being elected president, he has adopted an ambiguous, inconsistent stance in interviews and speeches.

But even when he acknowledges the significance of climate change, he tends to frame it in terms of clean air and water (which are not directly related to climate change), or the cost to business:

  • “I think there is some connectivity [between human activity and climate change]. There is some, something. It depends on how much. It also depends on how much it’s going to cost our companies.” – NYT interview, November 2016.
  • “I don’t think there’s a hoax. I do think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s man-made… I don’t wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars.” – CBS interview, October 2018
  • “Climate change is very important to me. I’ve done many environmental impact statements in my life, and I believe very strongly in very, very crystal clear clean water and clean air.” – December 2019
  • “Nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject… I want the cleanest air, I want the cleanest water. The environment is very important to me. I also want jobs. I don’t want to close up our industry because somebody said you have to go with wind.” – January 2020

So what does Trump actually believe?

Commentators have suggested that Mr Trump tends to conflate climate change with environmentalism more generally.

“He doesn’t really understand what climate change is about,” says Professor Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at the University of Columbia.

Media captionClimate change: How 1.5C could change the world

Meanwhile, Joseph Goffman, executive director of Harvard’s Environmental Law Programme, argues that Mr Trump “believes nothing on climate change – he’s a climate nihilist”.

Mr Trump’s position is based on his need to appeal to “the part of the Republican establishment that rejects climate policy,” Mr Goffman, who previously worked as Democratic staff director on the Senate environmental committee, adds.

Joseph Pinion, a Republican strategist who has called for more action on climate change, also argues that Mr Trump looks at the issue from a political, rather than a moral perspective.

“He’s not going to win running on the environment,” Mr Pinion says. “In America, climate is not an issue, so the reason it is not an issue for President Trump is because he cares about winning. And the reason Democrats are OK with it not being a priority for them, is because they want to beat him.”

“Ultimately it doesn’t matter what President Trump believes, what matters is what he’s doing – we need to recognise climate change is not a priority of his administration.”

What has Trump done on climate change?

The Climate Deregulation Tracker, run by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, has documented more than 130 steps the Trump administration has taken to scale back measures to fight climate change.

High-profile rollbacks include:

  • Deciding to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, which committed the US and 187 other countries to keep rising global temperatures below 2C.
  • Replacing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have limited carbon emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants, with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which had weaker regulations
  • Attempting to freeze the fuel efficiency standards imposed on new vehicles, and prevent California from setting its own emissions rules

“He’s completely halted and reversed the momentum that was built up during the Obama administration in fighting climate change,” Prof Gerrard says.

While withdrawing from the Paris Agreement was “terrible symbolically”, the agreement had “virtually no specifics on what the US had to do”, so other rollbacks, especially the attempt to limit fuel economic standards of cars, were more damaging, he adds.

Media captionGreta Thunberg and Donald Trump gave very different speeches at Davos

Dan Costa worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for more than 30 years, including as the National Director of the Air, Climate & Energy Research Program.

He said he noticed an “anti-science stance” once the Trump administration’s team took over.

“One of the folks who came as part of the transition team said ‘if climate change is such a bad thing, why are so many people moving to Arizona? Anyway, you can turn up the air conditioning.'”

He noticed that budget documents from the president’s office and Congress began to refer to his Air, Climate & Energy Research Program (ACE) as the Air and Energy research programme instead.

“There was a fair amount of anxiety and self censorship… people would start to keep the word ‘climate’ out of titles,” he said, adding that he also noticed a policy of “benign neglect” where many employees were not replaced after they left.

In 2018, Mr Trump made headlines after he cast doubt on the government’s own National Climate Assessment.

When asked about the findings that climate change would have a devastating economic impact, Mr Trump said: “I don’t believe it.”

Prof Costa said some in the EPA responded with “derisive laughter” when they heard this. “Everybody knows that what he says doesn’t necessarily reflect what he really thinks.”

A softer tone?

The Trump administration’s actions have widely rolled back on climate change measures. But some have seen a recent shift in his tone, as he has described himself as “an environmentalist” several times in the past few months.

Donald Trump

AFP
I’m an environmentalist. I am. I want the cleanest water on the planet. I want the cleanest air anywhere.”
Donald Trump
December 2019

“We’ve seen him really soften his rhetoric on the issue of climate change. He’s no longer talking about it being a hoax, and he’s talking about his care for the environment,” says Quillan Robinson, government affairs director at the American Conservation Coalition.

His group is led by young Republicans who want more to be done on the environment – and he argues that, while Mr Trump often talks about climate change in more general environmental terms, it was still a “promising sign”.

“We would like him to come out and talk about where the scientific consensus is at… at the same time, talking about it in terms of clean air and water appeals to broader factions of the country, so it’s something people can get behind.”

Not everyone agrees there is a shift in Mr Trump’s rhetoric – Prof Gerrard argues that it is “sporadic, and not substantive… the administration continues to go all out on repealing regulations”.

But if Mr Trump does change his tone – or his actions – on climate change in the future, it is likely to be for political reasons.

A Pew survey last year found that 52% of young Republicans felt the government was doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, while a Monmouth University poll found that almost two thirds of Republicans now believe in climate change – a 15% increase from just three years ago.

A survey commissioned by the American Conservative Coalition suggested that 67% of millennial Republican voters believed the party should do more on climate change.

“The trajectory of the GOP of old consider climate change a hoax, but the future of the GOP is comprised of individuals who take the issue just as seriously as Democrats,” says Mr Pinion.

“You can find ways to win elections by slimmer and slimmer margins, but we are quickly arriving at the day when a party that does not have solutions on climate change is not going to be viable with the overall majority of the electorate.”

Greta Thunberg: ‘Nothing has been done’ to tackle the climate crisis

Davos, Switzerland (CNN Business)Greta Thunberg took the stage at the World Economic Forum Tuesday to admonish world leaders for doing “basically nothing” to reduce carbon emissions despite evidence of a looming climate catastrophe.

Speaking just hours before President Donald Trump’s appearance at the annual gathering of the world’s political, business and financial elite, the teen activist said awareness of the climate crisis had shot up but in other respects, not much had changed.
“Pretty much nothing has been done since the global emissions of CO2 has not reduced,” Thunberg said. “[I]f you see it from that aspect, what has concretely been done, if you see it from a bigger perspective, basically nothing … it will require much more than this, this is just the very beginning.”
Asked what she wanted to see in the future, Thunberg said “that we start listening to the science and that we actually start treating this crisis as the crisis it is.”
Thunberg said she’s spent a year trying to publicize the findings of a 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that shows countries can only release another 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide in order to have the best chance at keeping the rise in global temperatures to under 1.5 degrees. At current levels, that amount will be emitted within roughly eight and a half years.
“I don’t think I have seen one media outlet or person in power communicating this or what it means,” Thunberg said. “I know you don’t want to report on this. I know you don’t want to talk about this. But I assure you I will continue to repeat these numbers until you do.”
Since appearing on the sidelines of last year’s Davos meeting, Thunberg’s profile has taken off and she was named Time’s “Person of the Year.” Conference participants lined up to get into the discussion Tuesday, with many holding phones aloft to take pictures as she took the stage.
Thunberg acknowledged the attention but said that wasn’t nearly enough.
“I’m not the person who can complain about not being heard — I’m being heard all the time,” she said during a panel with other youth activists.
Sustainability and climate change are top issues at this year’s Davos meeting. On Tuesday, Thunberg repeated her call for all companies, banks, institutions and governments to abandon the fossil fuel economy.
“Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, or 2030 or even 2021 — we want this done now,” she said.
In his speech, Trump announced that the United States would be joining an initiative to restoring a trillion trees by 2050, but said that “to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”
Speaking again shortly after Trump, Thunberg said “planting trees is good” but nowhere near enough.
“Let’s be clear: we don’t need a low carbon economy; we don’t need to lower emissions. Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5 degree target,” she said.
“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour,” Thunberg added. “We are still telling you to panic, and to act as if you loved your children above all else.”

Impeachment articles omit Trump’s many climate crimes

Tuesday bottom cartoon
The United States House of Representatives on Dec. 18, 2019, approved two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. I believe a third article is needed, that of “Worsening of the Climate Crisis.”

The House of Representatives determines what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and harm to the country is one practical criterion. Certainly, Article I and Article II describe significant potential harm to the United States. But Article III describes definitive injury to our country now, and the potential for devastating injury in the future. I propose the revision below of the Articles of Impeachment.

ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER

ARTICLE II: OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS

ARTICLE III: WORSENING OF THE CLIMATE CRISIS

(1) Scientific Reality Denial. The heart of Article III is President Trump’s rejection of the science of climate change. The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1859. Upon that foundation was built a massive body of peer-reviewed scientific literature, establishing the details of man-made (anthropogenic) climate change. This science is accepted by essentially every reputable climatologist on Earth, hundreds of global scientific bodies, the U.S. military, most world religions and 197 nation signatories to the Paris Agreement. Yet President Trump rejects climate science and claims, without proof, that climate change is a “Chinese hoax.” This denial of climate change, a concept as well established as the theory of gravity, has resulted in many harmful Trump administration policies.

(2) Paris Agreement Withdrawal. President Trump filed his intent to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement, effective Nov. 4, 2020. The United States thus lost its international leadership role in dealing with the climate crisis and has sabotaged recent climate summits, including COP25 in Madrid. The United States has become a climate pariah under President Trump.

(3) Clean Power Plan Repeal. President Trump’s halting the rollout of this plan killed the United States’ most powerful strategy to cut the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that produce global warming. With Trump’s ineffective Affordable Clean Energy replacement power plan, an additional 1,700 Americans will also die annually from air pollution.

(4) Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards Weakening. By reducing these vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, President Trump would increase GHG emissions, increase dangerous tailpipe pollution, increase lung disease and cost citizens more in larger gasoline purchases. In the United States, 53,000 die annually from tailpipe pollution, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study.

(5) Refrigerant Prohibition Repeal. President Trump stopped enforcement of a 2015 rule that prevented the use of the refrigerant hydrofluorocarbon, a greenhouse gas that is 5,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years.

(6) Methane Emissions Reporting Cancellation. President Trump cancelled a requirement that oil and gas companies report their methane emissions. Measurement of methane is crucial in detecting leaks, which can lead to technologies to decrease the leaks. After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most important GHG and has 84 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide over 20 years.

(7) Endangered Species Abandonment. President Trump withdrew protection of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles on the West Coast. This action was especially destructive at a time when we are experiencing the sixth mass extinction, with loss of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970, for example.

(8) Massive Ocean Extraction Proposal. President Trump proposed opening most of America’s coastal waters for offshore oil and gas drilling. This action benefits only the fossil-fuel coffers while extracting fuels we must not burn and exposing our pristine waters to the risk of another devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

(9) Extensive Additional Deregulation. The examples of harmful deregulation above are only a few of 80 instances of Trump deregulation found in research by Harvard and Columbia law schools and analyzed by the New York Times. Some of these examples are now law, some have been rejected by the courts and others are under litigation.

In summary, President Trump is deemed unfit for office given the high crimes and misdemeanors described in Articles I, II and III. In our modern era, in which science and technology are critical for a functioning society, President Trump’s rejection of science is a dangerous incompetence. The gold standard of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, states that the impacts of climate change are already evident, will multiply this century and will become devastating if global mean temperature increase is more than 1.5 degree Celsius. To prevent this temperature increase, the world must slash GHG emissions approximately 7% each year. In contradiction of this requirement, U.S. emissions rose 3.4% in 2018 under President Trump. This increase is not surprising as all the examples of deregulation above will increase greenhouse-gas emissions, as they benefit the fossil-fuel industry and other corporations.

California and Australia are scorched by hellish wildfires, Africans suffer famine from climate-worsened drought and sea-level rise is drowning homes of the Bangladeshi. Meanwhile, President Trump adopts policies that will enrich himself and the fossil-fuel industry, while inflaming this climate crisis. By the criterion of presidential harm to the United States (and the world), President Trump must be removed from office.

U.S. should deny Trump Jr. permit to import endangered sheep trophy from Mongolia

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

December 19, 2019 3

No American—regardless of his or her wealth and political connections—should be above the law. That’s why, in a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today, Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, are calling on the agency to refuse to allow Trump Jr. to import the body parts of the animal he killed.

The letter states that argali sheep are an imperiled species who should not be hunted for their horns or hides to serve as wall hangings. “The reporting on Mr. Trump Jr.’s argali hunt—that was conducted at night with a laser guided rifle, and without a hunting permit issued before the hunt—raises serious questions regarding the legality of the killing and subsequent import of the animal.”

As ProPublica reported, Trump’s hunt was partially funded by U.S. and Mongolian taxpayers because each country sent security services to accompany the president’s eldest son and grandson on the multiday trip. After the hunt, Trump Jr. is reported to have met privately with the country’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, before returning to the United States.

It was also reported that Trump Jr. did not have a Mongolian permit to kill the argali—a beautiful animal with long, curving horns—when the hunt took place. A permit was issued to him by the Mongolian government only after he had already departed the country, in what was clearly a hasty attempt to cover up a violation of Mongolian law. Such a violation should by itself disqualify Trump Jr. from bringing his trophy home.

Argali from Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Tajikistan are listed as threatened in the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and import of a hunting trophy of an ESA-listed species can be authorized only if it furthers conservation. There is no evidence that this was the case here. In fact, Mongolia has a history of using these beautiful and endangered animals as lures for those with money, connections and politics, and has not updated its argali hunting management plan in a decade.

A 2017 FWS finding shows that only a small percentage of hunting license fees in Mongolia actually go to argali conservation and community livelihoods.

Most Americans are opposed to trophy hunting, and do not believe in the canard spread by trophy hunting interests that killing one animal can help save an entire species. In fact, an increasing number of conservation scientists have challenged the notion that trophy hunting benefits conservation.

There is no doubt that Trump Jr. behaved unethically when he pointed a laser guided rifle at a beautiful animal whose species is in a struggle for survival. But this is not just about his poor ethics. As the son of the sitting president, his actions have also put our nation’s reputation as a global leader in the fight to conserve endangered wildlife at great risk. That’s why we urge the USFWS to follow the law and not show any special favors to this trophy hunter who has disgraced our nation and disappointed so many of us with his actions. Our laws should apply equally to every American, regardless of wealth, influence, political connections or name.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Trump’s North America Trade Deal Is Poised to Worsen Climate Change

While Congressional Democrats made clear that they would not bring the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to a vote until it had the backing of the AFL-CIO, support they finally secured last week, Democrats appear comfortable voting on the replacement trade deal that has virtually no support from leading environmental groups.

A House vote could come in the next few days and on Friday December 13, ten environmental organizations, representing 12 million members, sent a letter urging Congressional representatives to vote against the proposed deal, which will replace the 25-year-old North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“This final deal poses very real threats to our climate and communities and ignores nearly all of the fundamental environmental fixes consistently outlined by the environmental community,” the letter stated. The groups — which include the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and 350.org — noted that “the deal does not even mention climate change, fails to adequately address toxic pollution, includes weak environmental standards and an even weaker enforcement mechanism, supports fossil fuels, and allows oil and gas corporations to challenge climate and environmental protections.” The groups link to a two-page analysis produced by the Sierra Club that goes into greater detail about what the group sees as the deal’s environmental shortcomings.

According to the environmental news organization E&E News, at a Politico event last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the USMCA as “substantially better” than NAFTA and said “we are very pleased with the environment [provisions].” While she conceded “we want more,” she stressed, “but we don’t have to do it all in that bill” and praised it for “talk[ing] about the environment in a very strong way.”

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who co-led the House working group focused on environmental trade issues, told reporters at a press conference last week that “this is going to be the best trade agreement for the environment” and cheered its monitoring and enforcement provisions. Rep. Bonamici did not return In These Times’s request for comment.

Back in May, every Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), sent a letter to President Trump criticizing the draft agreement for its language around the environment, including its lack of “any apparent provisions directed at mitigating the effects of climate change.” Now the Committee is championing its work to shape the final text, saying the “revised version will serve as a model for future U.S. trade agreements.”

Having so many members of Congress support this agreement is especially frustrating for climate advocates because, in September, more than 110 House Democrats, including 18 full committee chairs, sent a letter to the president urging the new trade deal to “meaningfully address climate change” and to “include binding climate standards and be paired with a decision for the United States to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement.”

“While Democrats claim this deal improves on some environmental provisions, they have yet to explain how it meaningfully addresses climate change,” said Jake Schmidt, the managing director for the International Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Climate advocates point to the growing problem of “outsourced” pollution — where wealthier countries like the United States and Japan take credit for improving their own domestic environmental standards, while then importing more goods from heavy-polluting countries. Critics say the current draft of USMCA does nothing meaningful to address this problem.

The trade agreement is being hailed for rolling back the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, controversial private tribunals that have enabled corporations to extract huge payments for government policies that may infringe on their profits. But Ben Beachy, a trade expert with the Sierra Club, says the agreement includes a major loophole for Mexico, where oil and gas companies will still be able to sue in those private tribunals.

“The approach the NAFTA 2.0 deal takes is recognizing there’s a problem but then allowing some of the worst offenders to perpetuate it,” he told In These Times. “It’s an unabashed handout to Exxon and Chevron: It’s like saying we’ll protect the hen house by keeping all animals out, except for foxes.”

Beachy says the deal overall “dramatically undercuts” the ability of the U.S. to tackle the climate crisis. “By failing to even mention climate change, it’ll help more corporations move to Mexico, and this is not a hypothetical concern,” he said. “We cannot simultaneously claim to fight climate change on one hand and enact climate-denying trade deals on the other. Do we really want to lock ourselves into a trade deal for another 25 years that encourages corporations to shift their pollution from one country to another?”

Karen Hansen-Kuhn, the program director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, told In These Times the final agreement represents an even worse situation for farmers than under NAFTA. “On food and farm issues it’s definitely several steps back,” she said, pointing as an example to how USMCA will make it easier for companies to limit the information they provide to consumers about health and nutrition.

Emily Samsel, a spokesperson with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), told In These Times that her organization informed members of Congress “that [they] are strongly considering scoring their USMCA vote when it comes to the House floor on LCV’s Congressional scorecard.” LCV was one of the ten environmental groups to sign the letter opposing the trade deal last week.

USMCA does include language requiring parties to adopt and implement seven multilateral environmental agreements, but the 2015 Paris Agreement is not among them. Getting the president to agree to putting anything about climate change or the Paris Agreement was always going to be a tough sell, considering Trump has promised to withdraw from the landmark climate pact. Still, environmental advocates insist House Democrats have real leverage that they should use more aggressively, particularly since getting the trade deal through Congress is Trump’s top legislative priority for 2019.

Democratic supporters of USMCA say the existing language is good enough for now, and that it will position the government well for when Trump is out of office. A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi told The Washington Post that “the changes Democrats secured in USMCA put us on a firm footing for action when we have a President who brings us back into the Paris accord.” Earlier this year 228 House Democrats voted for a bill to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement.

U.S. labor groups have thus far remained mostly silent on the concerns raised by environmental organizations.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which opposes the deal on labor grounds, did not return request for comment on the USMCA’s environmental provisions. The Communications Workers of America released a statement on Friday saying the deal includes some “modest improvements” for workers over NAFTA, but a spokesperson for the union told In These Times, “We don’t have any comment on the environmental provisions.” The BlueGreen Alliance, a national coalition which includes eight large labor unions and six influential environmental groups, has issued no statement on the trade deal, and did not return request for comment.

And the AFL-CIO issued a statement last week praising the deal, though noted “it alone is not a solution for outsourcing, inequality or climate change.” A spokesperson for the labor federation did not return request for comment.