President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is not the only instance of the United States transformation from leader to laggard in global environmental protection. From the outset, the Trump Administration has been a “green” pariah on the world stage with alarming consistency.
In the Environmental Protection Agency’s early days nearly a half century ago, its corridors were crowded with foreign officials seeking pioneering guidance in setting up anti-pollution regulatory bodies of their own.
A French green public interest organization even had an American congressional report on peacetime nuclear power’s safety risks translated, reproduced and distributed to every member of the National Assembly.
How the mighty have fallen! The United States under Trump has not only become a global environmental renegade but also an agent in reversing what progress has already been made. His Administration is going in the opposite direction of a carbon-emission-neutral world by fostering the spread of polluting fossil fuels while downplaying the viability of clean renewable energy’s mass application.
In the course of Trump’s term in office, the United States has expanded its shameful green environmentally backward behavior. It pressured the seven other member nations of the Arctic Council to accede to elimination of any mention of climate change in the organization’s biannual report as a condition of publication — a glaring omission given the Far North’s “big melt”.
The United States has been conspicuous in resisting international efforts to reduce the use and manufacture of single-use plastics, which in discarded volume is defiling the world’s oceans.
Close to two hundred nations support the United Nations Green Climate Fund (UNGCF) established to help fiscally strapped developing countries adapt to the future rigors of climate change. The Trump Administration is the “odd man out”. It has withdrawn its fiscal commitment to the UNGCF, becoming the only wealthy industrial nation failing to aid less fortunate sovereign states.
Renewable energy and the phaseout of fossil fuels are widely regarded as the pathways to a carbon-emission-neutral world and subsequent stabilization of global warming. It is a scenario not embraced by the Trump Administration. In solitary defiance, Washington is seeking to suspend subsidies for renewable energy research and development while expanding fossil fuel production. Meantime, China is overtaking our leadership in the solar energy field.
What has caused the precipitous turnaround of our environmental leadership role on a global scale?
To minimize pollution-abatement costs, corporate America has managed to convince a segment of the population that environmental regulations are an impediment to economic growth and job creation. It is a false premise that has taken root primarily in the Republican ranks and given Trump the headwinds to operate as an environmental renegade. Trump’s message is unreceptive to the well-researched projection that environmental protection is essential to sustainable economic prosperity.