Most of President Barack Obama's actions to forestall climate change were wiped out March 28 as President Donald Trump revoked or revised limits on carbon emissions from power plants and opened federal lands to coal mining. Trump's executive order applies to Obama's Clean Power Plan, and an October 2015 rule entitled "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units." Even federal planning for the planet's warming climate will no longer be allowed, as Trump revoked Obama's executive order of 2013 requiring federal agencies "to integrate considerations of the challenges posed by climate change effects into their programs, policies, rules and operations to ensure they continue to be effective, even as the climate changes."
The Trump administration argues: "The Clean Power Plan has serious legal and policy flaws. For years, energy producing states have argued that this plan is an overreach by EPA, interfering with the states' sovereign rights."
But the National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA), an association of air pollution control agencies in 45 states, took issue with that position. Said NACAA executive director Bill Becker: "Say what you will about the Clean Power Plan, but consider this. In developing the CPP, the Obama Administration conducted the most extensive stakeholder process ever, meeting with affected and interested parties, especially states, almost anytime, anywhere. The final rule reflects much of this input."
"Today," continued Becker, "75 percent of the states are already meeting their 2022 interim greenhouse gas targets and 20 percent of the states are meeting their 2030 final targets. Notably, 85 percent of the states are on track to meet their final 2030 targets."
Andrew Steer, president of the nonprofit World Resources Institute, said, "The Clean Power Plan is a flexible and commonsense approach to reduce emissions from the power sector. It's already helping to shift markets toward clean energy, which is good for the economy and American competitiveness. The administration should not be rolling back the safeguards that protect our air from methane emissions and limits on coal leasing on public lands."
American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard, in contrast, called Trump's "Energy Independence" executive order "an important step forward in restoring common sense regulations that are needed to advance the U.S. energy renaissance."
The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding records of communication between the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, transition team members and industry officials relating to the Trump administration's order attacking a year-old moratorium on new federal coal leasing.
"These public records will shed light on the Trump administration’s dangerous decision to resume selling off our beautiful public lands to coal companies," said Taylor McKinnon with the Center. "Every new coal lease will put America at greater risk of climate change’s most catastrophic effects."
And regardless of the Trump administration's denials, the climate is changing in ways unprecedented since record-keeping began. The World Meteorological Organization issued its annual statement on the State of the Global Climate earlier this week, declaring that the year 2016 made history, "with a record global temperature, exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat."
"This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record—a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015," said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. "Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year," he added. "With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident." (ENS, March 28)