TrumpWrap: Critics Declare Climate Policies an Affront to Science, an ‘Embarrassment’ to the U.S.
Critics attacked Donald Trump’s climate policies as an affront to science and an embarrassment to the United States, as members of Congress began to realize there may be drawbacks to giving the White House too free a hand in dismantling the country’s climate and energy strategy.
In his first interview since departing the White House, Brian Deese, senior climate and energy advisor to President Barack Obama, declared the change in the country’s climate posture “damaging, frankly, embarrassing for those who operate internationally.” He added that “anyone who cares about this issue, anyone who cares about the country and the trajectory of the country, can’t look at what’s happening and be anything other than alarmed. Alarmed by the posture, alarmed by the rhetoric.”
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Deese, now a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, told Carbon Brief the rest of the world has moved on from debating the reality of climate change or the need for action. “Within the United States, there is one segment within one political party that has a vested financial interest in continuing to push that debate into the mainstream,” he said. “If the United States backs away, that conversation is going to keep going. That table is going to keep happening. That train has left the station.”
In The Guardian, meanwhile, Union of Concerned Scientists President Kenneth Kimmell stressed the depth of a political shift that has brought scientists out of their labs and into the streets for this Saturday’s March for Science.
“I’ve worked closely with scientists for decades and, by training and temperament, they tend to be happiest in the lab, testing and retesting experiment results—among the last groups of people you might expect to find protesting,” he wrote. They’re “grabbing placards now” because “an unprecedented attack on science, scientists, and evidence-based policy-making is under way in the U.S. federal government.”
But with the deadline for the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era climate and energy action under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) soon to expire, legislators are moving far more slowly than the former casino magnate and reality TV star would like, Mother Jones reported. One possible bright spot would be a tacit decision by the U.S. Senate to refrain from rolling back restrictions on methane emissions on public lands that have been a priority target for the fossil lobby.
“There is a limit for this legislative free-for-all,” wrote correspondent Rebecca Leber. “Use of the CRA is time-limited to 60 congressional working days, so the opportunity to use the CRA to repeal rules from the Obama administration that stretch back to mid-2016 will end around mid-May.” Repealing the methane order “should have been a slam dunk,” but “a number of moderate and Western state Republican senators have worried about the implications of permanently restricting the Interior Department’s ability to regulate methane emissions.”
The repeal passed the House of Representatives in February, but has been stuck in Senate because its proponents don’t have the votes to pass it.
But another administration threat took shape last week, as Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for a review of whether support for wind and solar development had accelerated the retirement of coal and nuclear generating facilities that are (supposedly) essential to grid stability.
“We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric, all of which provide affordable baseload power and contribute to a stable, reliable, and resilient grid,” he wrote in a memo obtained by Bloomberg. But recently, grid experts have “highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.”
Perry instructed his chief of staff, former grid utility lobbyist Brian McCormack, to study whether regulations, subsidies, and tax policies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.”
Meanwhile, with legislators home for spring break, at least one House Republican is refusing to meet her constituents, just as she did during the last break in February. Last week, one of the daily protests outside Barbara Comstock’s constituency office in Sterling, VA was titled Toxic Tuesday, and focused in part on her embrace of an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
“What we’re looking for is a reduction to fossil fuel consumption to protect the environment,” said Chris Tandy of 350 Loudoun, as passing cars honked support for the gathering. “The Paris climate deal is about the most historic climate agreement that we’ve ever reached. We should stay in it. We should meet our obligations under it.”
Earlier in the month, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) took a distinctly different tack, defending climate science during a House Science Committee witch hunt hearing convened by avowed climate denier Lamar Smith (R-TX). “The Science Committee’s contribution now is like that of Emperor Nero, fiddling while Rome burned down around him,” Beyer said. “This is irresponsible and dangerous. It is not leadership, and it will not make the EPA, or America, great.”
“Frankly, I’m tired of members of Congress bad-mouthing my constituents,” Beyer added a month later.