If the world stands any chance of surviving the worst effects of global warming, it may take the stubborn intervention of First Daughter Ivanka Trump to blunt the worst instincts of her father’s administration.
Trump, the glamorous New York fashion designer, is not officially a member of the Trump White House like her husband, Jared Kushner. But she has informally served as one of the few voices of reason on climate change within a new Republican administration populated with a few key climate change skeptics. And that begins with President Trump himself who once called climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese.
Her efforts are noble in the eyes of many environmentalists, and she has the advantage of being her father’s favorite child. But if the latest reports of environmental disregard within the Trump administration are true, then her prospects for success are slim indeed.
Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Trump is preparing to sign a set of “sweeping directives” to dramatically reduce the role that climate change plays in a wide range of government decisions, from creating appliance standards to the approval of new pipeline construction like the Keystone XL Pipeline.
These new orders would go well beyond a targeted attack on Obama administration measures blocking coal leasing and curtailing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the report says. The new presidential order would also override the government’s use of a metric known as “the social cost of carbon” which attempts to quantify the social cost of carbon.
Bloomberg also reports the order would eliminate industry restrictions on methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas.
Ivanka Trump does have two powerful allies within the cabinet. Defense Secretary General James Mattis considers climate change real and a threat to U.S. national security. He wants to see a reduction in fossil fuels for the armed forces in order to keep them mobile and sustainable. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is vigorously arguing against fulfilling the president’s campaign pledge to cancel the 2015 Paris accord that binds most countries to curb global warming, as The New York Times recently reported.
The Obama administration pledged that the U.S. would reduce its carbon pollution about 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. Ivanka Trump and Tillerson reportedly fear that pulling out of the landmark climate agreement could have “broad and damaging diplomatic ramifications,” not to mention undermining what former President Obama deemed the “last best hope” to save the planet.
But other powerful forces in the White House, including the senior adviser Stephen K. Bannon, are pressing for President Trump to disavow the international agreement signed by 194 nations. If the U.S. –- the largest economy in the world and the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions next to China -- were to gradually pull out, experts say it would do incalculable damage to the international agreement.
Al Gore, who met with both President Trump and Ivanka at Trump Tower last December, told The Washington Post Tuesday that he thinks “there is a realistic chance” the president will opt to keep the United States as a participant in the Paris accord.
But more generally, Ivanka is probably fighting a losing cause within an administration that is sworn to helping the coal industry make an improbable comeback and turning back the clock on thousands of industry and environmental regulations geared to trying to reduce global warming.
Her father has stacked the deck against her, choosing, for instance, former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and preside over the dismantling of every facet of Obama’s policies to crack down on carbon emissions from aging coal-fired power plants.
Trump recently signed one of his many executive orders directing Pruitt to begin the lengthy legal process of repealing the EPA’s Clean Power Plan for cutting power plant pollutions. Those regulations were at the heart of the Obama administration’s commitment to meeting U.S. obligations under the Paris accord.
Pruitt and other attorneys general from coal and energy producing states vigorously fought those regulations in federal court for a year, and now Pruitt can begin to throttle them from with the very agency he has been battling with for years.
Pruitt sought to reassure scientists and environmentalists at the EPA that he would be evenhanded in his oversight of the federal agency entrusted with protecting the nation’s air and water quality. He vowed to do as much to promote energy production and jobs as he would protect the environment.
Within days of taking charge of the EPA, he shocked many of his employees and the international environmental community by declaring that he didn’t believe there was a direct relationship between industrial carbon emissions and global warming – essentially disputing decades of scientific research to the contrary.
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt told CNBC a week ago. “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”