• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

We are inching along, but not as quickly as we (or you) would like. If you have already donated, thank you so much. If you haven’t had a chance, consider skipping the coffee this week and drop CounterPunch $5 or more. We provide our content for free, but it costs us a lot to do so. Every dollar counts.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Ignorance and Greed: Trump’s War on the Environment

Under Donald Trump, the environment has been the hardest hit of any sector of society, carried out by executive actions, the overturning of Obama-era regulations, and the enactment of new rules via cabinet review. This assault is occurring just as NASA reports that we’ve just had another near-record year of global warming. It’s insanity, and a classic example of willful ignorance. Trump, EPA director Scott Pruitt, and other officials simply choose not to inform themselves lest their position on climate change, which is based entirely on self-interest, be undermined.  Since these people only know what Fox News and the fossil fuel industry tell them, they probably are unfazed about portents such as the three-year drought that has brought Cape Town, South Africa, to “Day Zero” when the water pipes will be shut off and water strictly rationed.

Behind the rules changes lies a telling fact: Trump does not have a science adviser—a director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House.  But since he has no interest in science, he evidently sees no reason to learn from or defer to anyone who does. The president’s science adviser typically advises on everything from outbreaks of disease to global warming and nuclear weapons.  By leaving empty a position all previous presidents have filled, Trump is sending a message that he is not merely a climate-change denier but also a science denier.  Only one person sits in the OSTP office: a Silicon Valley financier.

As has been widely reported, the resignations, retirements, and constraints placed upon government scientists crimp the executive branch’s preparedness for what is to come.  As just one example, geologists in the interior department are being systematically constrained from presenting their research at major conferences.  Many more such reports make it apparent that blocking scientists from engaging with colleagues around the country and the world is not, as the EPA and interior department leaderships would have it, motivated by the need to save money. Not when those leaders have no problem spending lavishly on their own travel and office furniture.

The Latest Damage Report

It is almost beyond belief that at the very moment national and international action to combat climate change is most urgent, the Trump administration is not just backing away but actively contributing to the problem. Take oceans, for example:

We’re familiar with rising sea waters, but now there is a new finding: the volume of the oceans is expanding as glaciers and ice sheets melt. The extra load on oceans is pushing the bed down.  What this means is that assessments of sea rise need to take account of both rising at the top and rising at the bottom.

Climate change, along with dumping of fertilizer and waste, are depriving oceans of oxygen, creating a deepening crisis for the creatures that dwell in them. As an analysis in Science reports, “Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, . . . while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold [in all, from 50 to 500 dead zones]. Most sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and current trends would lead to mass extinction in the long run, risking dire consequences for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.”

Denise Breitburg at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the US, who led the analysis, said: “Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path.”

Such problems are irrelevant to the oil and gas industries. The Trump administration announced in January 2018 that virtually all offshore waters protected from drilling by an Obama executive order—about 100 million acres on both coasts, including 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico—would be opened to exploitation. “A new plan for energy dominance,” the interior secretary chortled.

The department’s secret strategic plan, leaked to The Nation, calls for speeding up approval of drilling applications and permits. “Burdensome” offshore drilling safety regulations that were imposed following the Deepwater Horizon disaster are being eliminated. The document makes no mention of climate change or renewable energy.  Science is virtually out of the picture. The interior department has killed a half-million dollar study that was underway to make drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico safer.  It has also eliminated the Oil Spill Compensation Fund, a half-billion dollar insurance program for victims of oil spills.

Some regulatory rollbacks that profit industry are barely reported but have enormous consequences for environmental and human health. In defiance of scientific conclusions, the EPA is removing restrictions on a particular type of neonicotinoids, a powerful class of insecticides, that would harm the already badly depleted bee population. The move would specifically benefit Syngenta, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of agricultural chemicals.  In a similar move, the EPA has loosened regulations on storage of toxic coal ash waste.  The waste is from coal-fired plants that generate electricity.

The new regulations allow companies to essentially make their own rules—it’s called “flexibility”—rather than give priority to the public health consequences.

More articles by:

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 22, 2019
Gary Leupp
The Kurds as U.S. Sacrificial Lambs
Robert Fisk
Trump and the Retreat of the American Empire
John Feffer
Trump’s Endless Wars
Marshall Auerback
Will the GOP Become the Party of Blue-Collar Conservatism?
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Dean Baker
Trump Declares Victory in China Trade War
Patrick Bond
Bretton Woods Institutions’ Neoliberal Over-Reach Leaves Global Governance in the Gutter
Robert Hunziker
XR Co-Founder Discusses Climate Emergency
John W. Whitehead
Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A World Partnership for Ecopolitical Health and Security
Binoy Kampmark
The Decent Protester: a Down Under Creation
Frances Madeson
Pro-Democracy Movement in Haiti Swells Despite Police Violence
Mike Garrity
Alliance for the Wild Rockies Challenges Logging and Burning Project in Methow Valley
Chelli Stanley
Change the Nation You Live In
Elliot Sperber
Humane War 
October 21, 2019
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Wolf at the Door: Adventures in Fundraising With Cockburn
Rev. William Alberts
Myopic Morality: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Sheldon Richman
Let’s Make Sure the Nazis Killed in Vain
Horace G. Campbell
Chinese Revolution at 70: Twists and Turns, to What?
Jim Kavanagh
The Empire Steps Back
Ralph Nader
Where are the Influentials Who Find Trump Despicable?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Poll Projection: Left-Leaning Jagmeet Singh to Share Power with Trudeau in Canada
Thomas Knapp
Excuses, Excuses: Now Hillary Clinton’s Attacking Her Own Party’s Candidates
Brian Terrell
The United States Air Force at Incirlik, Our National “Black Eye”
Paul Bentley
A Plea for More Cynicism, Not Less: Election Day in Canada
Walter Clemens
No Limits to Evil?
Robert Koehler
The Collusion of Church and State
Kathy Kelly
Taking Next Steps Toward Nuclear Abolition
Charlie Simmons
How the Tax System Rewards Polluters
Chuck Collins
Who is Buying Seattle? The Perils of the Luxury Real Estate Boom
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail