March 28, 2017

Anticipated Trump Executive Order Will Ignore Science on Climate Change, Endanger Americans

Statement by Ken Kimmell, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (March 28, 2017)—President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order later today that will severely curtail actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies to address climate change. The order directs the agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first-ever limits on global warming emissions from power plants, and eviscerates other key strategies that have been put in place to address climate change, improve public health, and safeguard citizens against the growing costs of climate change impacts.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Kimmell is a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first cap-and-trade program to cut carbon pollution from power plants.

“The wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency continues. Dismantling existing EPA programs and policies isn’t a plan—it’s an abdication. Seas are rising, droughts are becoming more commonplace, the Mountain West’s wildfire season is getting longer and we’re seeing more record-breaking temperatures. The fingerprints of climate change are everywhere, threatening Americans’ health, safety and pocketbooks.

“The EPA has a legal obligation under the Clean Air Act to curtail global warming emissions to help limit the impacts of climate change. The Clean Power Plan cost-effectively addresses one of the nation’s largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions—power plants—and gives states the flexibility to tailor the plan to their needs.  

“The executive order undercuts a key part of the nation’s response to climate change, without offering even a hint of what will replace it. The order includes other foolish and short-sighted policy changes, like eliminating a requirement for federal agencies to factor in climate change when issuing permits for large construction projects and taking into account the social cost of carbon in cost-benefit assessments of federal rules. It also repeals common sense measures like the federal flood risk management standard and agency support for state, tribal and local government efforts to protect and prepare communities for climate change. Climate change risks have to be factored into the equation to ensure people are safer and taxpayer funds are wisely invested. Today’s executive order follows on the heels of a recent announcement that EPA will re-open the vehicle emissions standards, with the goal of weakening or eliminating them.   

We estimate the cumulative effect of repealing the Clean Power Plan and the vehicle standards will be a 9 percent increase in energy-related emissions in 2030, or 439 million metric tons. That means emissions will go up in the U.S., just when the rest of the world is transitioning to a cleaner, healthier economy. 

“This is terribly irresponsible. But it won’t alter the scientific reality—that climate change is real, already happening, caused by burning fossil fuels, and requires immediate action to limit its worst impacts.”

FACT CHECK: It is also important to note that dismantling the Clean Power Plan will do nothing to make the U.S. more energy independent—a claim made by President Trump. The U.S. produces nearly all of its electricity from domestic sources, with a minuscule portion from Canada. In contrast, about one-quarter of U.S. oil is imported. The most effective strategy to cut U.S oil imports is cutting oil use, by accelerating recent progress making cars and trucks more fuel efficient.

FACT CHECK:  Today's expected action also won’t overturn the market forces putting pressure on the coal industry and does nothing to provide coal communities with the transition assistance they need and have been requesting.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.