As someone who is passionate about environmental issues, reading the news the past several months has been particularly discouraging. The newly appointed Trump administration has been making it very clear to the world that combatting climate change is not at all a priority or even a part of the political agenda of the United States. Furthermore, the administration’s actions and appointments has offered strong indications that we are going to see a rollback of environmental protection policies. The newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, recently said that he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor global warming. This statement contradicts the consensus among many scientific international organizations and agencies, including the agency that Pruitt has been appointed to run. Pruitt’s statement, besides being demonstrably false, reflects the sentiment in the Trump administration that we can expect to see very little being done to combat climate change by the executive branch of government. In the first budget draft put out by the White House, the EPA’s budget was reduced by more a quarter, which would severely limit the funds with which the agency can carry out its valuable work.
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement signed in 2015. This agreement, signed by most of the world’s nations at COP 21 in 2015, is a pledge to combat climate change. One of its main goals is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, and in striving to do so implies that human contributions to carbon dioxide must be cut drastically. The agreement went into effect after the 55 countries that produce 55% of global greenhouse emissions signed the pledge, the United States included. It has now been signed by 134 countries. Having a coordinated and collaborative effort from most of the world’s countries towards reducing environmental impacts is essential in combatting climate change and its effects, as no single country can do it on its own. If the U.S. withdraws from the agreement, the plan loses a main source of legitimacy and influence from a country that contributes to a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions. And if the U.S. does so, other countries may likely withdraw from it as well. However, it is not certain that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as there are fears of potential diplomatic conflicts with members of the Paris Agreement.
Although it often seems discouraging and at times can feel like a helpless situation, it’s not! Because the federal government is choosing to ignore the very real and imminent threat posed by climate change, it falls upon individuals and communities to do something about it. Luckily, the administration’s denial of man-made climate change is not a view held by worldwide, by both the scientific and non-scientific communities alike. There are so many things that we as individuals and communities can do to make a difference!
Even though I am often discouraged by the current challenges posed to environmental policies by the U.S. federal government, I know that local change and coordinated efforts by groups of people can make huge differences. We cannot afford to wait around for a new administration, or for a change in policies to take action—we must do something now. The future truly is in our hands, so let’s get out there and make a difference!
Nathan was born in Colorado but grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria from ages 6-18. He is now studying at University of Northern Colorado and hopes to live overseas once again, whilst teaching at international schools around the world.