Criticize choice of climate change skeptic for EPA transition
Climate change is real, and it is caused by human activities — but Donald Trump is employing a climate-change skeptic, Myron Ebell, as head of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team, and that will only make global warming worse.
According to the EPA, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming has been the result of human activity, and average global temperatures are expected to rise at least 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100 unless there is a widespread decrease of greenhouse gas emissions. Sea levels will rise one to four feet on average by that same year, and the continued acidification of oceans only means that more species will become endangered. As carbon dioxide levels increase, calcium carbonate becomes harder for marine organisms to obtain, slowing coral growth. The increase in temperature will affect the weather, increasing the amount of precipitation and the strength of winds in tropical storms and hurricanes, and ice at both poles will only to continue to decline as well. Just this year, the North Pole is “an insane 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends,” according to a Nov. 17 Washington Post article.
The world is changing but not for the better. Since the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, the average global temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and two-thirds of the increase has occurred since 1975, according to NASA. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2008 assessment report concluded that there is a more than 90 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have contributed to global warming. Human activities are at the root of the problem, as many of the new technologies available that make our lives easier also increase the amount of greenhouse gases, slowly but surely destroying the earth we live on. According to an IPCC fact sheet, deforestation and the use of fossil fuels in transportation increases carbon dioxide in our atmosphere; landfills contribute to the amount of methane present and nitrous oxide levels increase as a result of fertilizer use and the burning of fossil fuels, which also releases aerosols.
As greenhouses gases increase, the ozone layer — a layer of the atmosphere that absorbs ultraviolet rays from the sun — diminishes, decreasing the amount of heat below it and the risk of skin cancer. Normally, ozone is mostly present high up in the atmosphere, but it can also form closer to home in hot weather in the form of smog, causing chest pains, coughing and throat irritation, according to the EPA’s air quality index, AirNow. As the ozone layer thins, more heat passes through it, warming the earth. The warmer the earth, the more ozone is created at the ground level, creating health hazards.
Frankly, global warming is scary. But what is even more terrifying is the fact that Donald Trump has Myron Ebell, a climate-change skeptic, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency transition. Ebell has said, “There has been a little bit of warming, but it’s been very modest and well within the range for natural variability,” in an interview with Variety in May 2007.
Trump also doubts man-made climate change: On Nov. 6, 2012, Trump tweeted,“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” a claim which a Chinese official refuted, according to a Nov. 16 Time Magazine article. On Jan. 1, 2014, Trump tweeted, “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.” Even on his website, Trump does not have an environment section, only an “energy independence” section. While the site does claim that Trump wants to protect “the country’s most valuable resources — our clean air, clean water, and natural habitats,” his plan for action says anything but that. Instead, the president-elect wants to open onshore and offshore leasing of federal lands and waters to oil companies and eliminate the Obama-Clinton Climate Action Plan and Clean Power Plan, which aim to cut carbon emissions so that monthly electric bills will not feature double-digit costs, according to his website. According to a May 27 BBC article, he also said that he wants to end U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement, an accord that is supposed to bring countries from all over the world together in order to prevent global warming from getting worse by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Trump also has a problem with coal-mining restrictions, calling for an “end to the war on coal,” according to his website. Obviously, this is a problem for the environment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 65 percent of coal that is mined in the U.S. comes from surface mines, which are created in valleys and mountains by blowing up the tops of mountains with explosives, covering streams of water with rocks and dirt and adding pollutants to the water that harm aquatic wildlife as they move downstream. In the underground mines, methane gas must be cleared out of the tunnels so that it is safe to work there, adding more methane to the atmosphere. Isn’t it ironic that methane gas is removed because of health hazards just so that it could be added back again, creating health hazards? These negative aspects of coal mining are kept in check by laws and regulations such as the Clean Air Act, which Trump wants to soften or eliminate because it endangers countless American jobs. Ebell is not a scientist but rather the head of an advocacy group that fights government regulation and once received “considerable funding” from ExxonMobil, according to a Nov. 11 Washington Post article. He supports opening up federal lands for oil and gas exploration, as well as coal mining, in order to create jobs and improve the economy — and destroy the planet.
So how can we fight back? Contact your representative in the Congress to speak out against Trump’s proposed measures and convince them this is an issue worth fighting for. Donate to one of the many organizations fighting climate change, and there are many to choose from. The Sierra Club, for example, is fighting against the Keystone XL pipeline, even engaging in nonviolent protest in front of the White House. Trump has declared his support for the pipeline, saying in his 100-day plan that he wants to allow it to move forward, according to a Nov. 9 NPR article. Greenpeace is another organization that advocates for the use of solar, wind and geothermal renewable energy sources.
These are only just two out of the many groups fighting against climate change, including 350.org, Idle No More and the Union of Concerned Scientists, et al. Spread awareness of these groups and of climate change; watch “Before the Flood,” a documentary film on climate change produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, which is available free of charge. Join Brandeis groups that work to make the campus a greener place, such as Students for Environmental Action or Brandeis Climate Justice. Make noise, and make yourself heard: Global warming is not a joke, and it is our responsibility to take the initiative and fix it as best we can.
There is a lot of work and activism still waiting to be done, but not all hope is lost: “The Trump Administration is firmly committed to conserving our wonderful natural resources and beautiful natural habitats,” according to Trump’s website. If “natural habitat” has recently been redefined as “industrial city,” we should be fine; otherwise, Trump’s upcoming policy choices must change considerably in order to actually achieve his stated goal of protecting our environment.