How bad would a Trump presidency be for the natural world? One year ago, on the day of Trump’s inauguration, Dr. Martin John Hodson, the environmental biologist directing the John Ray Initiative in the UK made a number of predictions for the year ahead. One year later, he’s examined them in hindsight.
How damaging has Trump been? We’ll summarize Hodson’s points, but here’s his conclusion:
“Having considered all the evidence I think it is probable that Trump will be far worse for the United States than for rest of the world. On the climate change issue, the US was the leading nation in the world, but is now rapidly losing that position to China. Internally, pollution laws and regulations are being repealed meaning that Americans will be exposed to higher levels of a whole range of toxic substances. If Trump gets his way, public lands and the coasts around the US will be opened up for drilling and mining. These activities and the Mexican border wall will have many negative impacts on biodiversity. The US science base, particularly in the area of climate science, is already being eroded. I can see more scientists leaving.
“So with one proviso, Trump is likely to be worse for the US than for the world. Here is the exception. In my 2017 briefing I expressed worries about the potential for a nuclear war. A year of Trump’s leadership has not decreased those worries. Even a limited nuclear war would be disastrous not only for the many people killed, but for the wider environment.”
Now, here, in the bare bones, are Dr. Hodson’s findings now that the year is in the books:
Will Trump moderate his “climate hoax” attitudes and actions? “Trump’s actions throughout the year have almost entirely followed a skeptic path,” and it’s likely to continue.
Will Trump pull the US out of the Paris Accord? Yes, he did, but no one else has followed him. Most have increased their commitments, and the two other non-signatories have now joined, leaving the US completely isolated. “A feeling emerged that it might be better if the United States were out of the Agreement at the moment to avoid Trump’s meddling in the whole process.”
Will Trump be able to reverse the decline of coal? Despite killing the Clean Power Plan, leasing Federal lands to coal companies and making it easier to dump coal mining toxins into streams, coal employment has hardly budged. “My conclusion is that Trump’s attempt to revive coal will fail.”
Will work begin again of the Keystone XL Pipeline? “The long fight over Keystone XL is likely to continue for some time, and whether it will ever be built is still uncertain.”
Will Trump dent the surge in the use of renewable energy sources? Globally, no. The world is racing ahead with renewable energy, led by China and India. In the US, yes. Trump is using tax and tariff policies to cripple renewables in favor of fossil fuels. But the US retrenchment is dwarfed by the global progress.
Will Trump succeed in selling off public lands? Large scale protests will break our everywhere, but Trump will try to eliminate Federal protections as he did at Bears Ears National Monument and with uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed.
Will cities and states be able to prevent the worst effects of the environmental assault? It’s too early to say. The Climate Mayors (68 of them representing 68 million Americans) and the United States Climate Alliance (15 states} have committed to the Paris Accord goals, despite the Trump pullout..
How far will California go to protect the environment against Trump’s policies? California has already entered agreements with Scotland and China, and is working with others to fill the Federal climate void. As the world’s sixth-largest economy, California is eclipsing the Federal government in climate leadership.
Will US climate science survive four years of Trump? He has acted to muzzle science; NASA may lose its climate mandate; earth science satellites may be canceled. But others are filling in: France has hired numerous US climate scientists, and New York is now funding the disbanded Federal Climate Advisory Committee, in exile at Columbia University. Despite these efforts, science will suffer.
What new things have arisen, not seen in last year’s outlook? “The wall” will affect more than 100 threatened species. Virtually the entire US continental shelf will be open for oil drilling. Smog will be worse with the withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan.
Will the Church in the US rise to the challenge to protect the creation? Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholics, yes. Evangelicals, no – some are even debating whether they still wish to be called evangelicals, despite the efforts of a small cadre of evangelical climate activists. “Outside of the United States very few Christians of any variety have time for Trump, and most Christian environmentalists are getting on with the job of caring for God’s creation.”
Read or download Dr. Martin John Hodson’s full article here.