By Huck Fairman
Having watched President Donald Trump’s denials, delays, lies and wild forays into questionable medicine, as well as his appointing law-breaking, self-serving, incompetent cabinet members and department heads, to list only a few of his transgressions, it should be no surprise that his administration continues to try to undo the largest effort by this country to fight the climate crisis.
It is understandable that public attention has focused on the pandemic, but unfortunately the conditions which created the climate crisis are mostly still in place. Yes, the pandemic has reduced travel and manufacturing, thereby also reducing emissions, and allowing water bodies to clear, but there remains enough heat in the oceans and atmosphere to continue the warming, the sea level rises, and the devastating impacts on environments’ flora and fauna. And when life returns to, or close to, prior travel and manufacturing levels, so will emissions, unless dramatic steps are taken.
That Trump, despite these impacts and threats to our environments, and food and fresh water supplies, nonetheless touts his rollback as the crowning deregulatory achievement of his presidency, is a horrifying indication of his ignorance, narcissism and disregard for the well-being of people and the planet.
In a recent NY Times editorial, columnist Thomas Friedman, a measured observer of trends in this country and around the world, concluded that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is the worst to ever hold that important appointment. The same level of incompetency can be, and has been, applied to the president himself. How long can this country and the world survive “leaders” like these two?
Fortunately, 23 states, led by California, have sued the Trump administration over its reversal of fuel-efficiency standards. These Democratic states have asked a court to cancel the rollback of the 2012 standard which requires manufacturers’ fuel economy levels to reach 54 mpg by 2025. The Trump standard reduces the required level to 40 mpg.
The administration has done this despite warnings from its own EPA that the rollback will increase pollution, which will be an even greater health threat during the pandemic. Because vehicles are the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, they contribute commensurately to respiratory illnesses – again more dangerous during the pandemic.
Additionally, in response to these rollbacks’ disregard for public health and the environment, 82 lawsuits seeking to protect the public and the planet have been brought against the administration.
Interestingly, automobile manufacturers are split on the issue. Four companies – Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen – have declared that they will continue to follow the lead of California. General Motors and Toyota are defending the rollbacks. Drivers have the opportunity to support their views by taking their business to whichever automaker aligns with those views.
But again, by the administration’s own calculations, the rollbacks will result in emissions levels equal to those produced yearly by midsize countries. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the resulting increases in emissions may cause as many as 18,000 premature deaths, many related to asthma and other respiratory health issues. Additionally, consumers will end up paying for the lower mileage at the gas pump.
With evidence all around us, of the changes to our weather and climate that our civilization has brought upon itself, it is difficult to understand, and accept, why a president of this nation would support and promulgate a policy that will contribute to a worsening of the situation. With the vast majority of scientists around the world providing scientific evidence of our stressed environments, how is it possible for this president to dismiss the facts? But then, as the virus was beginning to spread in this country, this same person dismissed the number of cases as small, inconsequential, and well in hand. Of course he reversed his position, as he often does, but can a nation maintain its health, medical and financial, while it is led by someone so ill suited to understanding and responding to the complex challenges we face?