People across the nation concerned with environmental issues were deeply disturbed upon Donald Trump’s election to the most powerful political office in the world. His campaign rhetoric suggests an ignorance encompassing the most pressing environmental challenges — climate change, chemical pollution and the rapidly increasing loss of biodiversity.
The potential consequences of Trump’s administration on the environment have become much clearer after the recent actions his transition team took with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency. The actions of the team strongly suggest a few frightening notions: a possible witch hunt for employees previously involved in climate change work, a greater emphasis on nuclear energy and a commercialization of the Energy Department Laboratories.
A questionnaire from the transition team was circulated around the EPA inquiring about employees who attended climate change conferences, suggesting that Trump likely intends to fulfill his campaign promise of stripping the fossil fuel regulations in the Clean Power Plan. If successful, his actions would likely lead to the dreaded two degrees celsius global temperature warming. A large majority of climate scientists warn that these conditions would melt the Arctic, raise sea levels and accelerate heat-waves.
The apparent focus on nuclear energy also poses a few significant threats to the future of the environment. Though nuclear energy production creates relatively few greenhouse gases, the resulting radioactive waste is dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years and there are huge flaws in current nuclear waste containment technology. The highly contested Yucca Mountain depository was judiciously shut down by the Obama administration for many reasons, including its location along a fault line and the strong possibility of radiation leaking into groundwater.
Trump often speaks of having and seeking “the best people,” but his appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is a close friend of the fossil fuel industry, suggests he’s doing anything but getting the most capable individuals to tackle the climate crisis. Pruitt has been at the forefront of legal attacks on Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and his appointment spells disaster for the hope of a prompt rollout of forward-thinking regulations on carbon emissions.
We stand at a unique point in history where humanity’s advances in technology and industry have given mankind the capability to fundamentally change the earth and its ecosystems, and our actions now determine what the world will look like for generations to come. That is why it is so crucially important for the average citizen to be an engaged watchdog on environmental matters, to support organizations promoting renewable energy and vote for environmentally conscious legislators in the 2018 midterm elections.
Environmental issues present some of the greatest challenges we are going to face in the future. We are capable of protecting the earth from irreparable damage, but only if we recognize the issues we face and proactively work to solve them.
Drew Quiriconi ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in molecular biology. He is the volunteering coordinator for the Sierra Student Coalition.