In his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Former Vice President Al Gore quoted author Upton Sinclair in regards to those who refuse to believe, or even acknowledge, the reality of climate change. “You know, more than 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote this, that ‘It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.'”
Gore’s choice of quote could not have been more precipitous: a decade later, the current presidential administration has positioned itself unapologetically in the climate change skepticism camp. In fact, several members (arguably even President Trump himself) have aligned in toto with those who deny climate change entirely — even in the face of blatant evidence, regarded as fact by the vast majority of the scientific community. A community whose job it is to understand — and to help the rest of us understood — irrespective of any fiscal interest or compensation.
In the first six months since taking office, the Trump administration made drastic changes to several of the United States’ environmental policies – with many of those decisions coming within the president’s first hundred days. The appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the administration’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, set the tone and intention.
The rollbacks to come, predominantly in the form of slashed funding and repealed regulations, dealt a major blow to the integrity of the U.S.’ climate strategy, much of which was developed under the Obama administration. The gamut of repeals included rules that protected land and water supplies from toxic chemicals (like arsenic and lead) being dumped there to the lifting of regulations that were designed to track, and ultimately reduce, emissions by oil and gas companies. Criticism of standards abounded, including those that have guided vehicle fuel efficiency and are aimed at reducing pollution.
The rewriting of the EPA’s clean power plan, which began in March, ended a moratorium on coal mining and effectively ended requirements for climate change considerations when approving projects. Moratoriums put in place to prevent drilling on federal land were also lifted, and the Trump administration was quick to approve the controversial Keystone and Dakota access pipelines.