While campaigning to be the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump often referred to global warming as a “hoax” and promised Americans that, if elected, he would lift all “job-killing (climate change) restrictions.” On Tuesday, March 29, the US leader made good on his promise with an executive order that reverses many of the regulations the Obama administration put in place to protect the environment.
Entitled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” it asks the federal government to repeal or re-evaluate several key climate change policies. These include rolling back the Clean Power Act that requires substantial reductions in power plant emissions by 2030, and revising carbon standards for new coal plants as well as methane emissions from oil and gas operations. The order also calls for reconsidering the “social cost of carbon” estimate used to defend climate regulations and lifting the current ban on federal coal leasing. The President believes his new plan will “eliminate federal overreach” and "start a new era of production and job creation.”
Though this may sound dire to global warming advocates, experts say the executive order will have minimal impact, at least in the short-term. That’s because the US president does not have the authority to establish the environmental policy or to cancel a federal regulation like the Clean Power Act. Any new law or amendment to an existing policy has to be approved by the US Congress. Additionally, efforts to change laws that impact policies like the Clean Air Act, which mandates the EPA to safeguard the US atmosphere, will be immediately challenged and tied up in litigation for years to come. Finally, given that renewable energy will soon be cheaper to produce than coal, businesses may have little incentive to revert to the polluting energy source.
There is, however, some concern that the executive order may jeopardize America’s ability to comply with the emission reduction targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. Mark Lynas, a British author, journalist, and environmental activist who focuses on climate change worries that “the rest of the world will be asked to cover for the US falling behind." The expert also hopes that China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, doesn’t use it as an excuse to back out of the Paris Agreement altogether. Lynas says should that happen, we face an “extreme and terrifying future."
However, Karsten Haustein at the University of Oxford believes that while lifting the regulations may slow down the pace, it will not stop the efforts to reverse global warming. The climate systems and policy researcher is confident that business leaders are savvy enough to realize that renewable energy is the future.
Resource: LaTimes.com, CNN.con, Business Insider.com